Congestion pricing appears one-step closer to becoming a reality in the city, as the City Council is likely to approve a home rule message resting the proposal’s fate entirely in the hands of Albany legislators.
The vote was expected to occur in the later afternoon on Monday, March 31 – the original deadline the that state lawmakers imposed to approve the plan – after Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn spent much of the past few weeks lobbying hard behind the scenes to try to convince members to vote in favor of the plan.
“My guess is that the answer is yes,” said City Councilmember Joseph Addabbo, shortly before he was going to vote on the legislation. “I know a lot of councilmembers have been called once or twice by the speaker or by the mayor.”
Addabbo, who said he planned to vote against the bill – both in the state and federal legislation committee as well as in the entire council – said conversations with the mayor, speaker and MTA executives did not persuade him to change his mind.
“I was never convinced it would be a benefit for my residents either before congestion pricing or after congestion pricing,” Addabbo said.
The plan, which would charge cars $8 and trucks $21 to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street during the weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in order to reduce congestion, improve air quality in the area and raise money for mass transit, has also undergone a number of last minute changes.
After fielding concerns from legislators last week, the lawmakers amended the bill to give exemptions to low income and handicapped drivers as well as ask the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to contribute $1 billion to the MTA in exchange for New Jersey drivers only paying regular toll fees.
In order for the congestion-pricing proposal to pass in Albany, both the Senate and Assembly must approve the plan as well as Governor David Paterson, who has already expressed his support of the plan.
Many insiders believe that the plan will likely meet its greatest opposition in the Assembly.
Read this week’s Queens Courier to see how your councilmember voted on the plan and what’s next in Albany.