A plan to toll cars driving in Manhattan south of 61st St. could be delayed for two years, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials recently revealed in a financial disclosure form. Central Business District Tolling – better known as “congestion pricing” – will be run by the MTA to fund billions in construction for improvements in the city’s dilapidated mass transit networks.

State legislation passed in April 2019 that scheduled the program start date for the beginning of 2021, although MTA officials are still waiting for guidance from the Federal Highway Administration. Officials need to know what kind of environmental review process has to be completed to launch the new tolls, which could now be delayed until 2023.

MTA chief development officer Janno Lieber said in July a congestion pricing launch was already delayed to 2022 due to the lack of guidance. Transit officials hope the incoming Biden administration will fast-track the guidance and approval.

The MTA has yet to set toll rates or appoint a Traffic Mobility Review Board to advise on costs. The program, which would exempt cars from driving on the FDR and West Side Highway, is required by state law to generate enough money for the MTA to issue $15 billion worth of bonds over five years (to pay for construction projects). Gov. Cuomo’s 2020 executive order allows the MTA to redistribute money to plug deficits caused by the pandemic, but the MTA asked Congress for an additional $12 billion in pandemic relief, after getting $4 billion through the CARES Act, which was passed in March.

MTA officials said they need $1 billion just to make up for the delays in congestion pricing. Transit officials warned of 40% cuts in subway service and more than 9,300 layoffs if Congress doesn’t come through with more money. The MTA is pushing for the additional emergency federal funding to avoid draconian service and employee cuts, toll/fare hikes, and the continued freeze of the city’s capital plan.

Source: New York Daily News