CT: Lamont responds to delay in congestion pricing: 'Look, you've got to pay for transportation'

June 14, 2024
In the past, Lamont has expressed support for the concept of congestion pricing, saying, "It's a good thing for all if more people took the train."

Jun. 12—Gov. Ned Lamont appeared skeptical this week of a decision by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to halt the rollout of a congestion pricing plan that would have funded mass transit improvements throughout the tri-state area.

The plan, which would have charged most drivers $15 a day to enter Manhattan below 60th Street, was expected to go into effect at the end of this month, until Hochul abruptly announced a "indefinite pause" last week, citing concerns about the cost on commuters.

The move infuriated transit advocates as well as leaders of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which had planned to use the estimated $1 billion in annual revenues from congestion pricing tolls to fund improvements to the city's subways and buses, as well as commuter rails extending to Long Island and Connecticut.

More than 22,000 Connecticut residents take public transportation into Manhattan's congestion pricing zone every day, mostly via Metro-North Railroad. About 3,100 commuters make the drive there, according to the MTA.

"Look, you've got to pay for transportation, we've all had debates in our respective states, I know what everybody's opposed to, I've got to see what they're for," Lamont told reporters during an event in Meriden on Tuesday. "We've got resources, our special transportation fund's in pretty good shape right now, if you want to upgrade Metro-North, you're going to need some capital to do it."

Both Lamont and Hochul are Democrats, and the Connecticut governor stopped short of directly criticizing his counterpart in New York. When asked if he believed Hochul made the right decision, Lamont offered a coy reply.

"I'm not going to weigh in on that," he said. "Which answers your question."

In the past, Lamont has expressed support for the concept of congestion pricing, saying, "It's a good thing for all if more people took the train."

The tri-state area's third Democratic governor, New Jersey's Phil Murphy, was a fierce opponent of congestion pricing and led a lawsuit seeking to block the plan from taking effect. Connecticut Republicans were also critical of the plan, calling it a "attempted cash grab."

"This toll will have a significant financial impact on the thousands of Connecticut residents who commute on a regular basis to Manhattan," Senate Republicans Stephen Harding, R-Brookfield, and Ryan Fazio, R-Greenwich, said in a joint statement last week. "It will also harm the greater New York area's entire economy which is already overburdened by excessive taxes and fees."

Meanwhile, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said during a press conference this week that the agency would have to adjust its ongoing capital improvement efforts in light of Hochul's decision, eliminating some projects while focusing on "basic stuff to make sure the system does not fall apart.

The authority operates service along Metro-North's New Haven under an partnership with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which owns the tracks. Under New York's congestion pricing law, toll revenue would have been used to back up to $1.5 billion in bonds for Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad, including state-of-good repair projects in Westchester County and the purchase of new rail cars.

In Connecticut, the Lamont-led State Bond Commission recently approved borrowing up to $144 million for bus and rail projects within the state, including station improvements along the Waterbury Branch Line and some of the state's share of the $1 billion Walk Bridge Replacement in Norwalk.

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