By Dave Carlin

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City has gotten the green light to move forward with the next step for congestion pricing.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is allowing the Big Apple to begin its federally required environmental assessment of congestion pricing.

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As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, for years it didn’t seem to matter that this plan was approved. There were roadblocks of red tape.

Those roadblocks have just been cleared by the feds and as a result congestion pricing is back on the move.

It’s kicking into high gear after years of stagnation after the federal government relaxed a required environmental assessment, making it less intensive and quicker.

That means a faster path is cleared to charge drivers with tolls south of Manhattan’s 60th Street. Tolls are designed to raise $1 billion per year, allowing the MTA to use the money to secure bonds — around $15 billion in loans for MTA capital improvements — to create a better transit system and a less polluted New York City.

“We need congestion pricing. We need to make sure we have the resources to bring back the subways and buses strong,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

MTA officials are so happy over the removal of what was seen as the Trump era logjam by the Biden administration they released a video on social media.

The video named both President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and thanked them.

Not happy, though, are some drivers. They’re irritated because they’ll have to pay big, unless they change travel routes or habits, or qualify for exemptions — whatever those turn out to be.

In towns outside the city this is widely viewed as an unfair tax.

Getting the answers drivers need will be up to a separate panel figuring out the tolls, which were previously estimated to run $10-15 on top of existing tolls. Plus, who, if anyone, will be exempt.

It won’t be much longer predicted MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye. He promised to fast-track the review and public input.

He said the agency is already working on preliminary design for the roadway toll system and infrastructure, Carin reported.

London, Singapore and Milan have similar tolls. Now, other American cities will be watching how New York handles this.

Public outreach is also a requirement of the program.

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“Congestion pricing is an internationally proven method to reduce traffic congestion, enhance the availability and reliability of public transportation, and improve our air quality, and it will play a critical role as New York and the nation begin to recover from the pandemic and build back stronger and better than before. This advancement is also another step forward in generating the $15 billion the state needs to fund the MTA’s five-year $51.5 billion capital plan, which will transform the accessibility, reliability and convenience of the system for users of all ages and abilities,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Dave Carlin