New York legislators let congestion pricing plan fail

| 4/8/2008

Truckers will not have to pay a proposed $21 toll to enter Lower Manhattan in New York City during business hours.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to implement congestion pricing, which included an $8 toll for passenger vehicles, failed to advance in the New York State Assembly.

Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat representing the 64th District in Lower Manhattan, did not call for a vote in the Assembly chamber on Monday, April 7. That allowed a deadline imposed by the U.S. Transportation Department to expire, depriving the city of a $354 million grant to fund mass transit programs.

Silver is quoted as saying the measure lacked support in the Democrat-controlled Assembly. A spokesman for Silver’s office had not returned Land Line’s calls as of press time.

The measure, if passed, would have qualified the city for a $354 million in DOT’s Urban Partnership dollars awarded to cities that implement congestion programs including tolls.

Mayor Bloomberg also pledged $500 million in annual toll revenue to mass transit.

OOIDA Senior Government Affairs Representative Mike Joyce says small-business truckers are skeptical of congestion pricing because it is a tax on the working class.

“It’s an additional burden and an additional tax on their business,” Joyce told Land Line Magazine.

Joyce said the Assembly’s inaction on the bill is welcome news, but cautioned against believing that congestion pricing is dead in New York.

Bloomberg, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell launched a coalition in January called Building America’s Future to promote ideas including congestion pricing and other revenue generators for transportation.

“Some of their plans are good ideas, but under the surface, it doesn’t pass the smell test,” Joyce told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio.

Following the proposals effective failure, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said that the grant originally promised to New York was going back up for grabs for major cities considering congestion pricing.

“Starting (Tuesday), we will engage with many of the largest cities in the United States that have put forward ambitious traffic fighting plans to discuss how they could use this money to cut traffic, improve transit and reduce pollution,” Peters stated in a press release just as news of Silver’s announcement broke.

Bloomberg initially blasted members of the Assembly for refusing to go through with a vote. He also pointed out additional proposals related to emissions and the environment.

“We will move forward on proposals to plant 1 million trees, introduce hybrid taxis and install green roofs on city buildings,” Bloomberg stated. “Congestion pricing is just one part of our ambitious agenda.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer