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Congestion pricing gains steam with state Assembly support

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There are just a few days left to include a traffic surcharge in the upcoming state budget

New York City Explores Congestion Pricing Options To Ease Traffic Snarls Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

With just days left before the state budget is due in Albany, legislators are working to finalize what, exactly, will be prioritized—and it appears that congestion pricing, the long-in-the-works plan to enact a surcharge on cars in Manhattan’s busiest areas, may finally be there.

State Assembly speaker Carl Heastie signaled that the Democrat-controlled body has enough votes pass a congestion pricing bill, paving the way for its passage in the state Senate—which has passed a budget resolution supporting congestion pricing—and, ultimately, the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Safe to say that the Assembly is ready to go forward on congestion pricing,” Heastie told the New York Times. According to Streetsblog, Heastie said that a bill could be ready to go by Thursday.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, and support still isn’t unanimous. Congestion pricing as a solution to New York’s perpetual gridlock has repeatedly been suggested—but never tried—since at least the 1970s, and an attempt in the late aughts by former mayor Michael Bloomberg got close, but died in Albany at the hands of Sheldon Silver.

More recently, a perfect storm of transit problems—the deterioration of the city’s subway system, scrutiny of the MTA’s handling of those problems, and budget shortfalls—has brought congestion pricing to the forefront as a funding source for the subway. In 2018, Cuomo convened the Fix NYC panel to come up with a congestion pricing plan, and he’s been full steam ahead on the idea since late last year. And last month, after years of panning a surcharge on drivers, Mayor Bill de Blasio finally got on board.

But there are still lawmakers who aren’t on board; over the weekend, two state Assembly members—David Weprin, who represents parts of Queens, and Rodneyse Bichotte, representing parts of Brooklyn—held a rally opposing congestion pricing, but it was largely attended by supporters of the plan.

The full details of what a congestion pricing plan may include are unclear, but for a reference point, the Fix NYC panel convened by Cuomo in 2018 proposed a congestion surcharge of $11.52 for individual vehicles, $25.34 for trucks, and $2 to $5 on FHVs, as well as a toll of on the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. This would apply to vehicles entering Manhattan’s central business district (roughly any area below 60th Street) during a certain time period.

Whether a a final plan will have these figures remains to be seen, but one thing we do know: its effects won’t be felt overnight.