(The Center Square) — A New Jersey congressman says New York City’s plan to charge commuters a $23 congestion toll contains a “hidden tax” that could make it even more expensive to drive into the city.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer said New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s plans to charge some motorists a fee ranging from $9 to $23 to drive into Manhattan’s central business district will mean fewer drivers using the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel, and the Holland Tunnel to avoid the higher charges.
Gottheimer, a vocal critic of the MTA’s proposal, said the new tax would cost the Port Authority an estimated $125 million a year in lost toll revenue, which he argues would ultimately force the state to increase tolls on the bridge and tunnels by at least $2 to make up the difference in funds.
“The MTA is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul to boost revenue for the MTA,” he said in a statement. “I’m calling on the MTA to back down now, find another solution to its financial woes that doesn’t squeeze more blood out of the Jersey stone.”
The congestion pricing plan, approved by the New York Legislature in 2019, is aimed at reducing traffic congestion and cutting the region’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is set to go into effect in late 2023.
The plan is backed by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who says the move is aimed at reducing traffic congestion and blunting the impact of climate change.
For motorists coming from New Jersey to the Manhattan district, the average round trip cost per vehicle would be $120 with the additional toll, according to a recent MTA report on the proposal.
MTA officials estimate the new fee will bring in about $1 billion annually, which the agency will use as leverage to borrow more money for its $51 billion multi-year capital plan.
The MTA faces a potential $2.6 billion budget deficit in 2025, and is seeking more state funding to help reduce its projected shortfalls.
Gottheimer called the proposal essentially a “cash grab” for the MTA that will be diverted to bailing out the problem-plagued transit agency.
“And every nickel of this new tax goes to the MTA — nothing to NJ Transit or a single road in New Jersey,” he said.
Gottheimer has filed a bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from awarding any new capital investment grants to MTA projects in New York, unless drivers from New Jersey and New York get an exemption from the congestion tax.
His proposal, which he filed with U.S. Reps. Michael Lawler, R-NY, Jeff Van Drew, R-NJ, and would also amend the U.S. tax code to offer New York and New Jersey commuters a federal tax credit at the end of the year equal to the amount they paid in a congestion tax.
The legislation is also backed by the Fair Congestion Pricing Alliance, a coalition of groups fighting New York’s congestion tax plan, which suggests pressure from the federal government could convince the Big Apple to “cut it out.”
“The MTA has a budget problem that it wants the people of New Jersey to pay, but we can’t afford to pay the problem that they have,” Ron Simoncini, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.