Feds OK ‘environmental assessment’ of NYC congestion tolls

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New York can finally proceed with a shorter environmental review of its plan to toll downtown Manhattan car trips, the Federal Highway Administration said Tuesday — ending years of delays begun during the Trump administration.

Under the FHWA’s decision, the MTA and city may now proceed with an “environmental assessment” — which “requires less time to complete than an Environmental Impact Statement should no significant impacts be identified,” the FHWA said in a statement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year accused the Trump administration of holding the toll program “hostage” by refusing to signal which type of environmental review would be required to enact the program under the National Environmental Protection Action.

Tolls on auto travel in the Manhattan “Central Business District” below 60th Street were scheduled to launch at the beginning of next year. Transit officials now expect the program to get started as late as 2023.

“With this guidance on an environmental assessment now in hand, the MTA is ready to hit the ground running to implement the Central Business District Tolling Program,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said in a statement.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Cuomo accused the Trump administration of holding the toll program “hostage.”
AP

“We are already working on preliminary design for the roadway toll system and infrastructure, and we look forward to working with our colleagues at the Federal Highway Administration to conduct the review and broad public outreach so that we can move forward with the remainder of the program as soon as possible.”

Congestion pricing is expected to raise $1 billion each year for the perennially cash-strapped MTA, which plans to use the money to borrow $15 billion over four years for its its $51.5 billion modernization plan.

A NYPD officer directs traffic in Midtown Msnhattan.
Congestion tolls are expected to raise $1 billion each year for the MTA.
Getty Images

“We need congestion pricing, we need to make sure we have the resources to bring back the subways and buses strong,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference upon hearing the FHWA’s decision.

“We need, obviously, to continue to address congestion itself. This is really good news.”

New York will be the first city in the United States to toll downtown car trips, but other international cities have had similar tolls in place for years, including London, Singapore and Milan.

Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks and Bernadette Hogan

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