NY/NJ: MTA, New Jersey in settlement talks over federal congestion pricing lawsuit

Dec. 21, 2023
Two closed-door discussions have been held with New Jersey representatives since November — and MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said an additional conference was scheduled for the first week of the new year.

NEW YORK — Settlement talks are continuing between New York and New Jersey officials over the Garden State’s lawsuit to block Manhattan congestion tolling, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said Wednesday

Lieber was mum on the details, but said the agency still planned to put the congestion toll into effect in May.

“One of the ground rules of settlement discussions is you can’t talk about the substance, so I’m not going to,” Lieber told reporters.

Two closed-door discussions have been held with New Jersey representatives since November — and Lieber said an additional conference was scheduled for the first week of the new year.

The administration of Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sued the federal Transportation Department in July, seeking to halt New York’s plan to charge drivers entering Midtown and lower Manhattan.

The suit in Newark Federal Court claims that the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration failed to conduct a “comprehensive” and “complete” environmental review of New York’s plan, which New Jersey claims will cause pollution by changing regional traffic patterns.

Neither New York state, which passed the law requiring congestion pricing in 2019, nor the MTA, which is planning on raising $1 billion a year in capital funding through the toll, were named as defendants in the New Jersey suit.

But the transit agency filed to join the feds as defendants in October, arguing that the MTA had a material interest in defending the policy in court.

New Jersey officials have argued that the MTA’s own environmental assessment acknowledges that congestion pricing could cause an increase in truck traffic and pollution in parts of the Bronx, upper Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey.

The MTA has earmarked roughly $155 million for pollution mitigation efforts, but the bulk of those plans address effects in New York.

Lieber hinted at the possibility of funds being dedicated to similar efforts in the Garden State ahead of the first settlement conference in November.

“What we make clear in the environmental assessment is that we are open to certain specific mitigations that could address localized conditions in New Jersey,” Lieber said at the time. “We’ve never wanted to discriminate against New Jersey.”

Another settlement conference is currently scheduled for Jan. 5.

The toll proposal approved by the MTA’s board would charge cars, pickup trucks and SUVs a base rate of $15, increasing to $24 for small trucks and $36 for big rigs. Motorcycles would be charged $7.50. During nighttime hours — 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends — the tolls would be discounted by 75%.

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