What Happened to Congestion Pricing?

Remember congestion pricing? Not surprising if it has slipped one’s mind. To refresh one’s recollection, in 2019, the New York State Legislature passed a congestion pricing law as part of its 2020 budget legislation, known as the “Traffic Mobility Act.” The law established a “Central Business District” within which tolling must be imposed. The Central Business District consists of any roadway, bridge, tunnel, approach, or ramp located south of 60th Street in Manhattan but not the FDR, West Side Highway, Battery Park underpass, or Hugh Carey Tunnel. The law also established the Traffic Mobility Review Board, which is tasked with developing recommendations to be submitted to the MTA’s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA). These recommendations are supposed to include the cost of the fees imposed in the Central Business District as well as any credits, discounts, and exemptions. The tolls imposed must generate $15 billion in bonds to fund the MTA.

To date, the Traffic Mobility Review Board has not issued recommendations which were first projected to be submitted by the end of 2020 with the State’s expectation that the plan would become effective in January 2021. This has not happened. While public hearings began in fall 2021, there has still been no update on the Board’s recommendations.

One explanation for the delay stems from the fact the roadways associated with the Central Business District have received federal dollars. Due to this, New York is required to have an environmental impact statement conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish its congestion pricing program. According to a recent article, Governor Kathy “Hochul and MTA officials have pointed to the federal government’s lengthy approval process for knocking the plan off schedule, citing 425 comments on the project’s environmental assessment.” The topic was raised in a recent Governor’s debate and all candidates, including Hochul, supported a delay.

While there was some speculation that Governor Hochul was not fully supportive, another recent article explains she is “100%” in support of congestion pricing. That article also says she met with federal officials to “discuss[] the hundreds of objections and requests for additional information made by federal officials in response to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s initial study of the toll’s environmental and economic impacts.”

Still, there is no clearly established timeline for the environmental assessment or the recommendations for the plan.

Because the Plumbing Foundation City of New York, Inc. expects an impact on NYC’s plumbing industry as a result of congestion pricing, we are closely monitoring the issue and are prepared to submit comments in support of an exception or discount for those working in the service industry who must respond to 24-hour emergency calls.

*UPDATE 6/30/2022: According to an article, the MTA has said in a Board Meeting that it has answered the 400+ questions about how the environment might be impacted if it charges drivers a fee to enter Manhattan below 60th Street, in response to the federally mandated environmental assessment. Next steps include approval from the Federal Highway Administration, but there is still a long road ahead: the MTA “must conduct more public outreach, install devices to collect the tolls, and set a price that will ultimately raise $1 billion a year in revenue.” Accordingly, the MTA said it expects congestion pricing will go into effect by the end of 2023.