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MTA congestion pricing plan on indefinite pause after board vote

Passengers board a Long Island Rail Road train, in New York's Penn Station.
Marc A. Hermann

MTA Board members voted Wednesday to pause the controversial plan to upcharge drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street, just weeks after Governor Kathy Hochul ordered a pause over the objection of environmental groups and disability rights advocates.

Supporters of congestion pricing tout the benefits to air quality and the increased revenue to make train stations more accessible. But Hochul pulled her support earlier this month, citing economic concerns and the burden on low-income commuters. The higher prices would have taken effect June 30.

At a news conference Wednesday, MTA chairman Janno Lieber said he takes Hochul at her word that the pause is only temporary.

“We live in the real world," Lieber said in response to a question about whether the MTA would defy Hochul's order pausing the plan. "Doing a congestion tolling program on federally funded highways requires the United States government to approve it — period... And in order to get U.S. government federal approval, you need the State of New York's approval. That is what's not happening.” 

Congestion pricing was projected to add about $15 billion in new revenue and federal matching programs.

The MTA has no good options to manage the shortfall, according to New York state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who issued a reportthis week that found the transit system has more than $21 billion in capital projects that potentially relied on expected revenue from congestion pricing.

As a result, DiNapoli said the MTA’s current capital plan will likely represent a drop in investments.

Hochul said in a statement after the vote that she'll work with the state Legislature to make up the shortfall.

"While the timing of the next budget may necessitate temporary adjustments to the timeline of certain contracts, there is no reason for New Yorkers to be concerned that any planned projects will not be delivered," Hochul said.

In a recent pollby the Siena Research Institute, most New Yorkers oppose congestion pricing, while the majority of public comments at Wednesday's MTA Board meeting supported the toll increase.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.