NYC Congestion Pricing: Menendez Tells Mayor Bloomberg, Federal Gov't That New Plan Is Unfair To New Jerseyans

NYC Congestion Pricing: Menendez Tells Mayor Bloomberg, Federal Gov't That New Plan Is Unfair To New Jerseyans

In letters, Menendez calls on Mayor Bloomberg to eliminate special NJ surcharge; asks Federal Highway Administration to deny NY money unless surcharge is eliminated

Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is expressing his opposition to the revised congestion pricing plan put forth by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg by urging Bloomberg and the federal government to reconsider their support for it. Senator Menendez has written Bloomberg to highlight the inequities for New Jerseyans under the plan and make the case that it is unconstitutional (PDF of letter: http://Menendez.senate.gov/pdf/4408BloombergCongestionPricing.pdf). In addition, Senator Menendez has written the Federal Highway Administration to request that New York be denied federal funding linked to the congestion-pricing plan (PDF of letter: http://Menendez.senate.gov/pdf/4408FHACongestionPricing.pdf).

"We need to put the brakes on this plan before New Jerseyans get squeezed," said Senator Menendez. "This plan is doubly unfair since New York City stands to gain $354 million in federal funds, while the 140,000 New Jerseyans who commute to Manhattan will not see any of it. This surcharge is unconstitutional because it specifically singles out and punishes movement into Manhattan from our state."

The new plan, which would charge $8.00 to New York drivers that travel below 60th Street in Manhattan from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays, would cost New Jersey drivers $11.00. The original plan would have allowed the tolls paid by drivers entering Manhattan at bridges and tunnels to offset the congestion pricing cost. Under the revised plan, New Jersey drivers would have to pay an additional $3.00.

New York City would receive $354 million in federal funding for mass transit service improvements if the New York State Assembly approves the congestion pricing plan.

Text of letter to Bloomberg:

April 4, 2008

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
I write to express my strong opposition to any congestion pricing plan that would unfairly burden New Jersey drivers entering Manhattan with higher fees than commuters entering Manhattan from the outer boroughs. Such a scheme would be extremely unfair to New Jersey drivers and an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.
As originally devised, your congestion pricing plan was designed to allow tolls paid by drivers at bridges and tunnels entering Manhattan to offset the congestion price drivers would be charged for driving in Manhattan below 60th Street. Thus, whether someone was paying a toll to cross the Triborough Bridge or to cross the George Washington Bridge, the congestion price would be discounted by the amount paid in toll. That plan placed a large burden on drivers, but at least it is was fair.
But last week you secretly changed the plan to include a special surcharge on New Jersey drivers. No longer will they have their tolls offset the congestion price as New York drivers enjoy. Instead, New Jersey drivers will have to pay $11 to enter Manhattan while New York drivers will only have to pay $8. This system is patently unfair and unconstitutional.
The Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution grants Congress the power to "regulate Commerce . . . among the several States." U.S. Const. art. I, ยง 8, cl. 3. The Commerce Clause limits the power of states to discriminate against interstate commerce and prohibits states from passing measures that protect in-state economic interests by burdening out-of-state economic interests. See New Energy Co. v. Limbach, 486 U.S. 269, 273 (1988). The congestion pricing scheme as currently devised is precisely this kind of protectionism. The movement of New Jersey's goods and people into Manhattan cannot be singled out and treated unfairly no matter how politically convenient is if for the State of New York.
The scheme is doubly unfair since New York City stands to gain $354 million in federal funds designed to improve mass transit services in New York. The 140,000 New Jerseyans who commute to New York City will not see any of these funds despite the considerable strain that will surely be placed on our state's mass transit system should this plan be put in place.
On behalf of New Jersey commuters I ask that you please restore equity to your congestion pricing plan. New Jersey and New York should remain partners in solving our shared transportation burdens. By treating New Jerseyans unfairly this plan threatens to severely strain this partnership.

Sincerely,

___________________________
ROBERT MENENDEZ
United States Senator


Text of letter to Federal Highway Administration:

April 4, 2008

Acting Administrator James Ray
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Administrator Ray:
I write to you in regards to the $354 million grant the Federal Highway Administration is poised to award to New York City should the New York State Legislature approve a congestion pricing plan for Manhattan. Last week the City unilaterally changed the plan to unfairly burden New Jersey commuters.
As originally devised, the congestion pricing plan was designed to allow tolls paid by drivers at bridges and tunnels entering Manhattan to offset the congestion price drivers would be charged for driving in Manhattan below 60th Street. Thus, whether someone was paying a toll to cross the Triborough Bridge or to cross the George Washington Bridge, the congestion price would be discounted by the amount paid in toll. That plan placed a large burden on drivers, but at least it is was fair.
But last week New York City secretly changed the plan to include a special surcharge on New Jersey drivers. No longer will they have their tolls offset the congestion price as New York drivers enjoy. Instead, New Jersey drivers will have to pay $11 to enter Manhattan while New York drivers will only have to pay $8. This system is patently unfair.
The scheme is doubly unfair since New York City stands to gain $354 million in federal funds designed to improve mass transit services in New York. The 140,000 New Jerseyans who commute to New York City will not see any of these funds despite the considerable strain that will surely be placed on our state's mass transit system should this plan be put in place.
On behalf of New Jersey commuters I ask that you deny New York City any grant money unless they fix the inequities they recently included in the plan.
I thank you for your attention to this important matter. Please do not hesitate to contact my office should you have any questions.
Sincerely,

___________________________
ROBERT MENENDEZ
United States Senator


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