NEW JERSEY – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) joined Monday with advocates, business leaders, and transportation officials, to announce his legislation – the STOP NJ CONGESTION Act, which he is introducing in the U.S. Senate this week to address New York’s congestion pricing tax on New Jersey drivers and small businesses.
“My bill is simple. If congestion pricing is given final approval and New York moves forward with implementing its misguided plan, my bill would impose highway sanctions against the State of New York. In addition, my bill would require New York to meaningfully engage with — and receive consent from — affected states like New Jersey before any congestion pricing is approved,” Menendez said. “This would guarantee New Jersey a seat at the table for future proposals, something we should have had all along. My bill slams the brakes on this awful congestion pricing plan. I’ll say it again, this congestion pricing plan is a no-win for our state.”
The STOP NJ CONGESTION ACT, would impose highway sanctions on any state that implements the program described in the final Environmental Assessment for the Central Business District Tolling Program, or any similar program, causing New York to lose 50 percent of their National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) and Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) funding if they choose to move forward with the proposal. This would directly disincentivize New York from implementing its congestion pricing system.
The bill would also amend the underlying Value Pricing Pilot Program, which New York is using to implement its congestion pricing proposal, to require that a project sponsor meaningfully engage with, and receive consent from, any state that would be reasonably impacted by a proposal under the program. This guarantees New Jersey a seat at the table on, and veto power over, any future congestion pricing proposal.
In addition to $17 tolls to cross into New York through the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, a $23-a-day congestion fee would impose a $5,000-a-year burden on New Jerseyans who work or do business in Manhattan, as well as an added strain to New Jersey’s transit systems and infrastructure. At a time when the budgets of working-class families and small businesses are already stretched thin, New York is trying to balance their budget by squeezing every dollar from out-of-state-residents.
“Telling New Jerseyans that congestion pricing works in London is as insulting as telling a fish how pretty the hook looks in his mouth,” said Ron Simoncini, executive director of the Fair Congestion Pricing Alliance. “There is nothing to recommend congestion pricing as a solution for traffic woes; it is a trick to have New Jerseyans pay for upgrades to New York mass transit that New Yorkers use and should pay for themselves.”
“There are innumerable types of businesses that will suffer from congestion pricing – from companies that send their salespeople to New York to service those markets to companies that go to New York to procure goods and companies that ship product to New York businesses – it increases costs of operation and will ultimately mean inflated cost to consumers in New York and New Jersey,” said Jim Kirkos, President and CEO of the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce. “New York and New Jersey are connected in important ways and those working relationships will be threatened. The MTA expects everyone to ignore the fact that New Jersey was completely left out of any and all discussions regarding this program. We are going to fight however we can – and reducing our coupling from New York to reduce the negative impacts of congestion pricing will be a likely consequence.”
Justin Braz, Assistant Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, represented the Murphy administration at the press conference.
“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. 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,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “As a conceptual matter, I support congestion pricing, but it must be structured in a way that is fair to all sides. UntiI New York’s congestion pricing plan is fixed, I will keep working closely with partners from both states and both sides of the aisle to halt implementation of this misguided tolling plan. Our Administration is closely assessing all legal options.”
In addition to the legislation being introduced this week, the Senator is also sending a letter to Transportation Secretary Buttigieg expressing ‘serious concern’ about the impacts New York’s congestion pricing plan will have on New Jersey communities. The letter also urges Secretary Buttigieg to abandon the current EA and FONSI, and instead pursue a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that includes input from and equity for all stakeholders, including those in New Jersey.