Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres (DN.Y.) joined a growing chorus of politicians on Monday sharply criticizing the MTA’s congestion pricing plan for toll motorists driving south of 60th Street in Manhattan.
At a press conference, Torres addressed the findings of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s draft environmental assessment of the project – specifically one that estimated the project would cause an additional 50 to 704 trucks to travel daily on the Cross Bronx Freeway.
Torres said he was “blindsided” and “misled” by the findings released last week.
“The systematic suffocation of the Bronx with ever-increasing pollution and ever-higher asthma rates cannot continue and cannot be made worse by a congestion pricing plan that treats the Bronx as nothing more than the Manhattan dumping ground for diesel truck traffic,” Torres said. “If you’re going to burden us with more diesel truck traffic, it’s incumbent on the state to create a plan to mitigate those impacts.”
Torres said he supports the broad goals of congestion pricing: to charge motorists in Manhattan’s central business district and use the proceeds to fund public transit upgrades.
But he worried the program could damage air quality in his district unless state officials take further action to reduce pollution from the Cross-Bronx Freeway.
As Torres held his press conference, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.) and Nicole Malliotakis (RN.Y.) stood at another podium on the west side of Manhattan, saying state officials should reduce congestion pricing completely.
As it happens
Get updates on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as they happen with our free email alerts.
The pair have been among the program’s most vocal opponents since it was approved by state lawmakers in 2019 – and pointed to legislation they have proposed to expand its environmental review and revoke federal funding for the MTA if the tolls are launched .
“This is nothing more than the last cash grab from the MTA and nothing more than the last car war by city and state,” Malliotakis said.
MTA officials will launch a series of public hearings on the toll plan next week. Agency chairman Janno Lieber hopes the Federal Highway Administration will approve the tolls later this year with an expected launch date of early 2024.
The MTA plans to charge motorists $5 to $23 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street, with the cost depending on the time of day and the pricing model approved by the agency’s board. The agency presented seven different pricing structures, each with a different impact on where Manhattan-bound traffic is pushed.
Congestion pricing revenue is required by state law to fund $15 billion of the state’s 2020-2024 capital program, which includes plans to begin work on four new Metro- North in the Bronx and preliminary engineering for the redesign of Penn Station, a key hub for New Jersey commuters.
Governor Hochul on Monday defended the program, pointing to the public outreach sessions the MTA has held over the past year as evidence that state officials are in touch with the concerns of communities across the region.
“The idea is that we would do everything in our power to encourage people to take public transport and take vehicles off the road,” Hochul said. “There may be localized impacts. The idea of the study is to mitigate them.