Home News Opponents to NYC congestion pricing get their day in court

Opponents to NYC congestion pricing get their day in court

Courtroom arguments started on Friday in a trio of lawsuits challenging the state’s plan to charge congestion pricing tolls in Manhattan, with opponents claiming the controversial proposal will cause more problems than it solves.

The three lawsuits filed in Manhattan federal court — one by a Battery Park City resident and others, one by a consortium  of Manhattan residents and a third by the United Federation of Teachers and the Borough of Staten Island — all claim the MTA’s plan to charge motorists was insufficiently studied and federal regulators should have required a more in-depth review.

Their lawsuits, along with legal challenges in New Jersey, say the plan will change driving patterns in the city and increase traffic snarls in neighborhoods outside the designated congestion zone.

The plan, scheduled to take effect June 30, will charge motorists a base toll of $15 a day to drive on surface streets in Manhattan at 60th St. and below.

The MTA hopes to raise $1 billion in revenue per year via the toll.

Opponents argue that the feds should have ordered the MTA to conduct an environmental impact study, or EIS, to look at the plan in depth and more closely at potential alternatives.

The UFT suit says the toll will hurt teachers and other civil servants who the union says must drive to their jobs.

Transit officials maintain the MTA’s study was more than sufficient, with the feds finding last year that the initial plan would have “no significant impact” on the environment. The MTA’s complete, detailed proposal still awaits a final okay from the Federal Highway Administration.

“The issue is: was a 4,000 page, four-year study sufficient? We think it is,” MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said outside the Manhattan courthouse.

With its 2023 finding, “the federal government gave us an A-plus. That’s why we’re confident going in,” he added.

Zachary Bannon, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Transportation, which signed off on the congestion pricing plan last year, said the MTA’s comprehensive assessment was just as thorough and good as a federally mandated review.

“The requirements for an EIS were all but met,” he said during oral arguments.

Attorney David Kahne, representing the plan’s opponents, said the government failed to seriously consider alternatives to what he said will be a “draconian toll.”

Kahne said the feds green-lighted the plan before specifics like what the toll would cost and what exemptions or discounts would apply had been determined.

Attorneys for the MTA and the U.S. DOT asked Judge Lewis Liman to dismiss the suits filed by the UFT and the New Yorkers Against Congestion Pricing Tax consortium, claiming parts of their lawsuits were filed too late and other parts of their challenges are premature before the Highway Administration’s final decision is made.

Liman made no rulings, and decisions are likely in coming weeks.

The congestion pricing plan also faces legal challenges in New Jersey, where a federal judge is expected to rule next month in a case brought by N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.


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