Eno’s Q&A With Congressman Josh Gottheimer About Congestion Pricing
May 26, 2023|Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)
What are the pros and cons of New York’s proposed congestion pricing program?
The bottom line is that the Congestion Tax is nothing more than a $23-a-day cash grab to fund the terribly mismanaged MTA, and it will increase pollution and traffic while defunding the Port Authority and threatening mass transit capital projects.
The MTA’s own report to the federal government acknowledges that there will be more traffic across New Jersey, in the outer boroughs, and north of 60th Street and estimates. In the same report, the MTA also admitted that the Congestion Tax will increase soot, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide in North Jersey, as well as carcinogens like formaldehyde. They also admitted that their plan will increase pollution emitting truck traffic in Bergen County, with nearly a thousand trucks being diverted to our communities.
Furthermore, according to the MTA’s own projections, if what they say is true and fewer cars go south of 60th Street, the Port Authority stands to lose around $125 million a year — more than $1.25 billion over the next decade in lost revenue. This will have a huge impact on Port Authority’s capital projects that benefit New Jersey residents and mass transit in the entire region. Projects at risk include upgrading the PATH train, renovating the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the George Washington Bridge, replacing the Lincoln Tunnel helix, and improving Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK airports.
How would northern NJ and NYC be affected by the congestion pricing program?
New York and the MTA’s Congestion Tax would cost commuters up to $23-a-day — more than $5,000 a year — to drive south of 60th Street. When you add it all up: the expensive tolls, the cost of parking and gas, and the Congestion Tax, it could cost Jersey commuters — including hard working nurses, restaurant workers, first responders, and men and women of labor — $20,000-a-year.
The MTA has admitted in its own report that Bergen County, New Jersey will face an increase in traffic due to the Congestion Tax — sending hundreds of more trucks across the bridge every day.
The increase in pollution will be so bad that the MTA has proposed mitigation efforts that include air filtration units near schools, more vegetation, and spending millions of dollars from tolling to try to combat the expected negative environmental impacts on New York’s own communities like the Bronx and outer boroughs. They’ve even proposed a $25 million asthma treatment program because of the Congestion Tax. But not a nickel to address potential harmful effects for Jersey families.
How could the program be modified to address your concerns?
All Jersey drivers entering the Congestion Tax zone must be credited an amount equal to the Congestion Tax charged.
Right now, New York and the MTA’s Congestion Tax does nothing but threaten mass transit options like the PATH Train and Port Authority Bus Terminal, increase traffic and pollution, and whack hard-working commuters who have no other option but to drive to work with a $5,000-a-year tax.
You will not find a stronger advocate for mass transit, but it’s clear that the MTA needs to immediately reverse course.
I helped write the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and get it signed into law last Congress, and it included billions of dollars for public transit here in Jersey and it will help build the Gateway Train Tunnel. Not a dime of the Congestion Tax revenue will go to Jersey to help reduce air pollution or get fewer cars on the road. It will do nothing to help address the reality that many hard-working New Jersey commuters have no mass transit options, whether that’s in Sussex County or in Bergen County, where mass transit either doesn’t exist or is incredibly limited.
Would you feel differently about NY’s plan if some of the money were used for NJ Transit?
The real issue at play here is that New York and the MTA are looking at hard-working Jersey commuters to solve their own budget problems instead of fixing the horribly mismanaged MTA. Despite receiving a surge of federal COVID dollars, to the tune of $15 billion, and the nearly $2 billion dollars they receive annually from the federal government, the MTA’s woeful mismanagement and lax enforcement of fare collection has led to the MTA facing a $1.2 billion budget deficit at the MTA in 2024. Last year, the MTA lost approximately $700 million to fare skippers, with no accountability.
You don’t see Jersey asking New Yorkers to fix our problems. It’s time for the MTA to back down and find another solution to its financial woes that doesn’t squeeze more blood out of the Jersey stone.
Are you worried that putting the MTA under the microscope might endanger funding for NJ Transit?
No because they are unrelated. The Congestion Tax does not send a dime to NJ Transit. Plain and simple: the Congestion Tax is only about bailing out the mismanaged MTA. That is the issue here.
What kind of progress have you made on legislation that would stop or change the congestion pricing program?
Every week, we see more progress with new federal legislation to stop the MTA’s ridiculous Congestion Tax. I’ve been working alongside both Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate from both sides of the Hudson to get it done.
I introduced the bipartisan Anti-Congestion Tax Act with Reps. Van Drew and Lawler to prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from awarding any new Capital Investment Grants to MTA projects in New York until drivers from all New Jersey and New York crossings into Manhattan receive exemptions from any Congestion Tax. It will also amend the U.S. tax code to offer commuters a federal tax credit at the end of the year equal to the amount they paid in a Congestion Tax.
Rep. Malliotakis and I have also introduced bipartisan legislation demanding a full audit of the MTA to figure out what they did with the $15 billion they received from the federal government during the pandemic.
Just last week, Senator Menendez, Congressman Pascrell, and I introduced the STOP NJ CONGESTION Act, which will impose federal highway sanctions on New York if they move forward with the Congestion Tax. I’ve also established the bipartisan Congressional Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus, along with my co-chairs Reps. Malliotakis and Lawler of New York.