By David Shepardson
(Reuters) -A New York City plan to charge a daily toll on vehicles entering or remaining in the central business district got a boost on Monday from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which said the city had adequately assessed how the congestion charge would help the environment.
The department’s Federal Highway Administration said the planned change will have no significant environmental impact and that a more comprehensive environmental analysis was unnecessary.
The decision allows the sponsors of the plan, the first of its kind in the U.S., to advance their application to the U.S. agency’s Value Pricing Pilot Program which “provides transportation agencies with options to manage congestion through tolling and other pricing mechanisms,” the FHA said.
Three Democratic lawmakers from New Jersey – Senator Bob Menendez and representatives Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell blasted the decision saying the plan was “nothing more than a cash grab to fund” the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Menendez has introduced legislation that would cut 50% of federal highway grant funding to New York state if the plan goes ahead.
In May, USDOT approved release of the final environmental assessment for New York’s congestion pricing plan for public review.
The city wants to charge a daily variable toll for vehicles entering or remaining within the central business district, defined as between 60th Street in Midtown Manhattan and Battery Park on Manhattan’s southern tip.
Following entry into a tolling agreement, tolling could begin up to 310 days later, the city said in May.
New York City, which has the most congested traffic of any U.S. city, would become the first major city in the U.S. to follow London, which implemented a similar charge in 2003.
New York lawmakers approved the plan in 2019 to provide funding to improve mass transit by using tolls to manage traffic in central Manhattan. The plan was originally projected to start in 2021 but the federal government under President Donald Trump took no action.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonEditing by Mark Porter and Matthew Lewis)