Driving assessment

MTA Holds Congestion Pricing Environmental Assessment Hearings

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is set to begin a series of six virtual public hearings this week that will allow commuters to weigh in on the environmental assessment of the MTA’s proposed congestion pricing plan.

The first hearing will take place on Thursday, August 25, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. All participants and speakers must register for the sessions.

The Environmental Assessment of the Central Business District Toll Program studied the impact of proposed congestion pricing below 60th Street in Manhattan. The report, which was prepared by the MTA, the State Department of Transportation and the New York City Department of Transportation, was released earlier this month. Officials said the plan would reduce traffic congestion in Manhattan’s central business district and increase revenue for transit investments.

“The environmental assessment presents a range of options,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said Sunday. “We encourage members of the public to share their views with the project proponents by participating in the public hearings or submitting comments for the record.”

The program, which would create new tolls for driving in the city’s “Central Business District,” could cost non-E-ZPass customers up to $34.50 more per day to travel to Manhattan. If approved, the new tolls could be implemented by late 2023 or early 2024, according to the report.

“The considerable detail included in this assessment clearly demonstrates the widespread benefits that would result from tolling the Central Business District,” MTA President and CEO Janno Lieber said in a press release.

The Central Business District toll zone would cover 60th Street in Manhattan and all roads south of 60th Street except for FDR Drive, West Side Highway/9A, the Battery Park Underpass, and all surface road portions of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel connecting to West Street.

According to the assessment, 85% of existing business trips to the business district are made by public transport, 5% by car from New York, 3% by car from suburban New York counties, 3% by car from New Jersey, 0.2% by car from Connecticut, and 4% by other modes including taxis, rental vehicles, bicycling and walking.

Project officials said the program would reduce the number of vehicles entering the business district by 15.4% to 19.9%, depending on the toll scenario. Reducing the number of vehicles would also increase public transit ridership by 1% to 2%.

The assessment looked at a variety of factors, including regional air quality, regional transportation, and parking.

To access the public hearings or to add a comment, the public can visit online on the day and time of the hearing. Project managers accept comments online, by e-mail, mail, telephone and fax.

After the public review period, which is due to end Sept. 9, the Federal Highway Administration will determine whether the plan has a significant impact on the area. If the FHA approves the project, contractors will have 310 days to design, develop and implement toll infrastructure and toll system technology, project officials said.

Virtual hearings are scheduled for:

  • Saturday, August 27, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, August 28, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Monday, August 29, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 31, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

With Alfonso A. Castillo