New Jersey sues Biden administration over plan to reduce congestion in New York

 July 22, 2023

New Jersey sued the Biden administration on Friday over a plan to reduce congestion in New York City, saying that it would increase pollution and emissions in New Jersey because commuters would drive through that state instead of New York to avoid increased tolls.

Governor Phil Murphy said that the Department of Transportation's (DOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) plan violates environmental laws and doesn't really reduce emissions overall, just shifts them to his state from New York and allows New York to profit from doing so.

The plan would increase commuter tolls to enter Manhattan as much as $23 during the day and $12 at night. It is expected to put $1 billion into New York's coffers from those who are not expected to avoid the tolls by driving through New Jersey instead.

"After refusing to conduct a full environmental review of the MTA’s poorly designed tolling program, the FHWA has unlawfully fast-tracked the agency’s attempt to line its own coffers at the expense of New Jersey families," Murphy said Friday in a statement. "The costs of standing idly by while the MTA uses New Jersey residents to help balance its budget sheets are more than economic."

"Reckless scheme"

He continued, "At the MTA’s own admission, its tolling program would divert traffic and shift pollution to many vulnerable New Jersey communities, impacting air quality while offering nothing to mitigate such considerable harm. Today we stand as a unified front against this reckless scheme and reaffirm our commitment to combat the unjust taxation of our hardworking residents by other states."

The FHWA said in a letter to New York officials in May that an environmental assessment met the threshold for the project to move forward.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez (D) agrees with Murphy.

"As the senior senator of New Jersey, I have made it abundantly clear that it’s unacceptable for New York to try balancing its budget on the backs of New Jersey commuters. Their proposed congestion tax scheme is nothing more than a shakedown and must be defeated,"Menendez said Friday.

More opposition

"If the MTA gets its way, trucks will be backed up here in North Jersey, billowing cancer-causing pollution into the lungs of our children. I want to thank our Governor for punching back at a state that decided to use Jersey as their piggy bank to solve their years of criminal mismanagement at the MTA," Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. said of the plan. "I don’t know how the MTA Chairman looks at himself in the mirror."

Local lawmakers and business groups like the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce and New Jersey Business and Industry Association also oppose the plan.

Of course, New York Mayor Eric Adams (D) is all for it. He gets a billion dollars and New Jersey gets a good amount of New York's pollution.

What's not to love?

A mystery

What would make the Biden administration go along with this is a mystery.

Then again, the appearance (but not substance) of environmental friendliness and higher taxes is kind of the Biden administration's thing.

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