NEW YORK — Under a potential Biden administration, New York's first-in-the-nation congestion charge to drive into Manhattan south of 60th Street could rev up, after the Trump administration, MTA leaders say, left the plan in limbo.
"Extremely positive," said Brian Fritsch, manager of advocacy campaigns at the Regional Plan Association. "It was sort of incredibly unprecedented the Trump administration would weaponize the environmental review process to slow down congestion pricing."
The MTA will miss its January start for congestion pricing.
The hold up: the agency needs to know from the U.S. Department of Transportation what kind of environmental review is required.
An MTA official said the agency handed over last January all information the DOT requested, but had not heard back anything of substance since then.
It's been another New York effort stalled in Washington, along with plans for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
“We saw them use the bureaucracy and throw gum in the works of things that used to be, just happen normally through the course of business," Fritsch said. "I think those things will change dramatically under a Biden administration, so I'm very confident congestion pricing will move forward fairly swiftly.”
The MTA said in a statement that the revenue from congestion pricing would generate billions for major projects, like upgrading the subway's aging train signals.
"There’s no reason this should have been held up for as long as it has been, and we’re hopeful the new year will breathe new life into this vital project," MTA spokesman Ken Lovett said.
The MTA also is seeking a $12 billion federal bailout. One billion dollars of that request would make up the lost revenue from delays in congestion pricing.
If the Biden administration lets the MTA launch congestion pricing... it could be an achievement felt around the country.
"Congestion pricing has been in place in many cities across the world for a number of years," said Paul Skoutelas, president and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association. "We need a U.S. experience. I think New York will be that experience that we can learn from and see if there’s applicability to other major cities across the country.”
A federal DOT spokesman said congestion pricing is still under review and that such a precedent-setting program requires thorough consideration and review.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated the congestion zone starts below 96th Street. It starts south of 60th Street.
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