The Department of Transportation has given the green light to New York’s controversial congestion pricing plan, which would impose a toll on drivers who attempt to enter Manhattan during peak traffic hours.

On Friday, the Federal Highway Administration gave tentative approval to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s environmental and legal submissions for the proposal, allowing it to move forward with a 30-day public review period. The administration is expected to give its final approval to the congestion pricing plan at the end of that review period, Politico reported. 

Under the plan, drivers entering Manhattan could be forced to pay as much as $23 on top of other tolls and fees. The fees are opposed by North Jersey Democrats, who say the New York plan is unfair and essentially a tax on Jersey drivers. 

MTA officials have said they need about a year to build the necessary tolling infrastructure, which puts the plan on target to go into effect in the second quarter of 2024.

A spokesman for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told Politico that the Biden administration’s approval ‘is a critical step that will allow our Environmental Assessment to be publicly available for anyone to read, and we will continue to work with our partners to move congestion pricing forward.’

‘Governor Hochul is committed to implementing congestion pricing to reduce traffic, improve air quality, and support our public transit system,’ Hochul spokesman John Lindsay said. ‘We’ve worked closely with partners across government and with community members over the last four years to develop a plan that will achieve these goals.’

However, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy called the plain ‘unfair and ill-advised.’ 

‘Since day one, I’ve stood against the disproportionate negative impacts of congestion pricing on New Jerseyans – a greater financial burden on New Jersey commuters, double tolling, toll shopping, a lack of revenue for NJ TRANSIT, outsized environmental burdens on certain North Jersey communities, and financial impacts on the Port Authority’s capital budget,’ Murphy said in a statement. ‘Everyone in the region deserves access to more reliable mass transit, but placing an unjustified financial burden on the backs of hardworking New Jersey commuters is wrong. Simply put, it is a money grab.’

The governor said he supports congestion pricing in principle but called New York’s plan ‘misguided.’ 

New Jersey Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell, who each represent districts bordering New York, also condemned the ‘Congestion Tax.’ 

‘They want to stick it to our families and commuters with a $23-a-day tax, but we won’t stand for it in Jersey — the fight is just beginning. I’m demanding the Department of Transportation reconsider their decision in the next 30 days,’ Gottheimer said in a statement.

‘New Jerseyans are used to paying our fair share, but New York’s congestion pricing scheme is fatally flawed and unnecessarily unfair,’ said Pascrell. ‘New York’s plan would saddle Jersey commuters with extra taxes on top of our already-high taxes without the needed financial return for our transit systems. Having the rubber stamp of approval by the federal government is wrong and an affront to New Jersey.’

In a statement, MTA Chief of External Relations John J. McCarthy thanked the federal government for green-lighting the congestion pricing plan. 

‘Congestion pricing is a generational opportunity to make it easier for people to get around in, and get to, the Central Business District, by reducing traffic and funding improvements to the public transit system. To do it right, environmental equity has been an integral component. We are grateful that the FHWA has acknowledged the Project Sponsors’ efforts to date and has found the document has met the standards for legal sufficiency.’

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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