U.S. governments will not fund NYC congestion-fee plan

Published 16 August 2007

The City of New York asked the Department of Transportation for about $180 million to implement a congestion-fee scheme in lower Manhattan; DOT gives only $10 million; system to resemble London’s “ring of steel”

You don’t always get all you want. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has allocated $354 million to reduce traffic congestion in New York City, going some way toward helping Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious plan but falling far short of the kind of money the mayor was seeking to implement his sweeping proposal. The federal funds would primarily be used for bus purchases and other improvements in mass transit. The city had also applied for $180 million to pay for the installation of a system that would impose a fee on cars entering the busiest parts of Manhattan, but DOT contributed only $10 million to that initiative, leaving it up to the city to come up with the rest of the funds for the congestion pricing system.

Opponents of the fee on drivers, however, called the news a setback for the Bloomberg administration, and predicted it would be more difficult now for the mayor to win approval for his congestion pricing plan. Under the agreement with the city, the City Council and Legislature must sign off on the plan early next year for the federal funds to be released. The State Legislature has created a seventeen-member commission to evaluate the mayor’s congestion pricing plan and make recommendations. The commission would make a recommendation by 31 January, and after that the plan would have to be approved by the City Council and the Legislature by 31 March.

The New York Times’s Anahad O’Connor and William Neuman note that New York, by the way, was not the only city to apply to DHS for funds to implement a congestion-fee system. Twenty-six other cities, including Dallas, Denver, and Miami, also submitted proposals. Bloomberg’s plan calls not only for investing in mass transit, especially buses, but also calls for charging drivers $8 and trucks $21 a day to enter or leave Manhattan below 86th Street on weekdays during the workday. Those who drive only within the congestion zone would pay $4 a day for cars and $5.50 for trucks.

The congestion fee has homeland security aspects, too. A system of cameras around Manhattan would photograph license plates, giving the government a better tracking system of cars entering and leaving Manhattan.