Home News Arguments wrap in MTA congestion pricing suit, ruling expected by June

Arguments wrap in MTA congestion pricing suit, ruling expected by June

Oral arguments in New Jersey’s congestion pricing suit wrapped up on Thursday, leaving the fate of the MTA’s plan to toll drivers entering Midtown and lower Manhattan in the hands of a Newark federal judge.

Lawyers for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration called on Judge Leo Gordon to find the congestion pricing plan illegal and require federal regulators and the MTA to start over.

“The have to start from scratch,” said attorney Randy Mastro. “I want them to start from square one.”

He painted the MTA’s plan — which aims to reduce vehicular congestion while raising $1 billion a year for the transit agency’s capital budget — as a cash grab insufficiently studied by the Federal Highway Administration.

Mastro argued that the plan had insufficient mitigations for expected pollution increases in New Jersey when trucks and other vehicles take alternate routes in order to avoid the congestion toll.

“New Jersey will suffer environmentally in so many communities,” Mastro said in his closing argument. “We implore you,” he said to Gordon, “Put a stop to this — make the Federal Highway Administration and the MTA do it right.”

As during Wednesday’s arguments, Mastro argued that the MTA made no real assurances it would fund mitigation efforts for potential pollution increases in New Jersey due to changing traffic patterns.

The MTA’s plan does earmark money for that purpose in the Bronx.

Attorneys for the MTA and the Federal Highway Administration said that they had every intention of funding pollution mitigation in the four potential New Jersey hotspots of Orange, East Orange, Newark and Fort Lee — and that planned regional mitigations, like subsidizing cleaner diesel trucks, would address pollution throughout New Jersey.

Some New Jersey pols have long argued that the congestion pricing plan was foisted upon them with little consultation, and attorneys for the state argued Thursday that only a handful of New Jersey transportation agencies were looped in on the planning.

But attorneys for the MTA and the feds said that New Jersey’s leadership willfully ignored the planning process until the last minute.

“What New Jersey chose to do was not participate,” said MTA lawyer Mark Chertok. “New Jersey certainly was aware of this project — did any of these other agencies pick up the phone?

“This is a critical project for the region,” Chertok said in his closing argument. “Even New Jersey doesn’t deny that.”

Gordon, who will rule on dueling summary judgement motions in the case, said Thursday that he intends to make a ruling ahead of the MTA’s planned June 15 start date.

“I can’t tell you if that’s May 1st, May 19th, May 30th, June 1st or June 10th,” he said. “I’m going to do my best.”

Congestion pricing also faces legal challenges in New York federal court, where a hearing on a motion to dismiss is expected next month.


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