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Velazquez, Espaillat, Suozzi & Nadler Call for Verdict on Delayed Congestion Pricing Program

Velázquez, Espaillat, Suozzi & Nadler Call for Verdict on Delayed Congestion Pricing Program
September 28, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), and three additional members of the New York City delegation are asking for a decision from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Highways Administration regarding the delayed Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) application in New York State. The VPPP would generate revenue for the MTA by charging an additional fee for drivers who enter designated zones of high traffic in the city. This would dissuade drivers from overcrowding certain city roads and raise money for mass transit in the process. The project is projected to generate around $1 billion in revenue annually to be set towards other transportation projects.

“While the congestion pricing initiative was proposed prior to the current pandemic, its implementation is only more critical now,” the lawmakers wrote. “New York State was the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak. During the worst of the crisis, the MTA proactively created an unprecedented response to ensure that health care professionals and other essential workers could respond to the needs of the City and surrounding communities to help stop the spread of this deadly disease. The continuation of these critical transportation services played a significant role in preventing the total collapse of the tri-state area’s economy. We applaud the herculean efforts of transportation workers that made this happen, some whom lost their lives in the process.”

 

The program’s application was submitted in June 2019 through a joint effort by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT). Neither the NYSDOT nor the NYCDOT have received federal approval to proceed with an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the next step in the program’s implementation. This process, generally considered pro-forma for other, similar infrastructure projects, has been left on an indefinite hold for over a year. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the MTA to suffer staggering losses due to lessened ridership. Having an additional source of revenue to offset these deficits would provide substantial relief to New York City’s public transit infrastructure.

 

The full text of the letter is below.

 

A pdf of the letter is available online here.

 

 

 

 

September 15, 2020

 

The Honorable Elaine Chao

Secretary

Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, D.C. 20590

 

The Honorable Nicole Nason

Administrator

Federal Highways Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, D.C. 20590

 

Dear Secretary Chao and Administrator Nason:

 

As members of the New York City delegation, we would like to express our extreme disappointment by the continued delay of New York State’s Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) application. The VPPP application was submitted jointly in June 2019 by the New York State York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA); the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT); and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT). New York State’s VPPP proposal would facilitate the nation’s first area-wide cordon pricing program and the country’s largest self-help initiative, consistent with the goals of this Administration. 

 

We understand, however, that after nearly 15 months the applicants have not yet received federal approval to commence the required environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The authorization to commence NEPA review is typically pro-forma for any proposed infrastructure-related project. As you are aware, the State’s congestion pricing plan, as enacted by the New York State Legislature, authorizes the MTA to utilize 100 percent of the net proceeds for the renewal and modernization of capital assets, including stations, signals and rollingstock. The VPPP proposal is estimated to generate approximately $1 billion annually in new dedicated revenues to support such capital projects. This regionally-generated revenue is more critical today than at any period in the MTA’s history  given considerable fiscal shortfalls directly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also our understanding that USDOT has expressed concerns regarding the authority under the VPPP to use toll revenues for non-highway purposes. We fail to understand this concern as there is supporting legislation and long-standing precedent for utilizing toll revenues to support public transportation projects under the VPPP, including the Urban Partnership Agreement executed by USDOT in 2007.

 

While the congestion pricing initiative was proposed prior to the current pandemic, its implementation is only more critical now. New York State was the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak. During the worst of the crisis, the MTA proactively created an unprecedented response to ensure that health care professionals and other essential workers could respond to the needs of the City and surrounding communities to help stop the spread of this deadly disease. The continuation of these critical transportation services played a significant role in preventing the total collapse of the tri-state area’s economy. We applaud the herculean efforts of transportation workers that made this happen, some whom lost their lives in the process. 

 

For the economic health and sustainability of our nation - and in tribute to our fallen transportation workers - we urge you to immediately provide the decision on the form of review that will be required for the proposed Central Business District Tolling Program to begin the NEPA process, the next step in the USDOT review and approval process. Continued delay only serves to impede the ability of the MTA to lead this region’s – and our nation’s – economic recovery. We thank you in advance for your action in support of allowing this project to move forward.

 

Sincerely,  

 

Nydia M. Velázquez

Member of Congress

 

Adriano Espaillat

Member of Congress

 

Thomas R. Suozzi

Member of Congress

 

Jerrold Nadler

Member of Congress

 

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