NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new push has begun to impose tolls on the free East River bridges and tax drivers coming into Manhattan.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the goal is twofold – reducing traffic congestion and improving mass transit.
Officials said the tolls would generate $12 billion for upgrading buses and subways, and fixing roads and bridges. It would also create 30,000 new jobs and new transit options in underserved areas, officials said.
Of course, this is far from the first time such a plan has been discussed.
In the latest plan, a coalition of New York state assembly members and transit advocates want to put tolls on the four East River bridges – Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro – and tax the entrances to Manhattan south of 96th Street.
“Today, after a decade of underinvestment and political paralysis, our once-enviable transportation system is broken and outdated,” said Alex Matthiessen, director of the transit advocacy group Move New York.
Matthiessen unveiled the latest effort to get the state Legislature to enact the plan to bring congestion pricing to the city.
Under the plan, drivers would pay $5.54 with E-ZPass to cross onto the now-free East River bridges. Taxis – both yellow cabs and Uber – would charge a surcharge below 96th Street.
Meanwhile, fees on the current toll bridges would drop at least 40 percent.
Move New York said the plan would generate $1.35 billion each year – money split between mass transit and bridge and road repairs.
Areas with limited mass transit would see new projects. Among those areas would be “northeast Queens, southeast Queens, southeast Brooklyn, the entirety of Staten Island, and the East Bronx,” said East Harlem state Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez (D-Manhattan).
Proposals to tolls on the East River crossings have tantalized generations of politicians – going back more than 80 years to 1933 during the Great Depression.
Cash-strapped mayors repeatedly looked to the bridges to raise revenue. The most recent push was started by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg a month after he took office in 2002.
Drivers did not like the plan then, and they don’t now.
“This is very bad as a businessman trying to go in and out of Manhattan,” said James Donaghy of Flushing, Queens. “All it’s going to do is cost me and my customers more money. I’m firmly against it.”
“It’s not a good idea,” said Ali Muhammed of Long Island.
“It’s ridiculous. The city now (is) chasing everyone out,” said Jerome Dosson. “I’m going to move to Virginia or Atlanta or somewhere. It’s ridiculous.”
And it is still an uphill battle to get Albany to pass congestion pricing. Sources told CBS2’s Kramer that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) is against putting tolls on bridges that are now free.
A state Senate spokeswoman said firmly that there will be no new taxes, and tolls definitely count as new taxes.