LaHood: NYC’s Congestion Pricing Money Still There for the Taking

Speaking at an event in Midtown yesterday morning, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood let it be known that New York City can still claim hundreds of millions of dollars in federal transit funding — if local lawmakers implement congestion pricing. NY1 reports:

The city was slated to receive about $350 million in federal
transportation funds to implement the plan, but it was was stalled by
State Assembly Democrats in Albany.

LaHood said the money is still there if lawmakers change their minds.

"The money that was going to be provided for that particular project is
still at the Department of Transportation," said LaHood. "If New York
got its act together around that kind of opportunity, I think we would
look at it."

Most of that $354 million would have gone toward transit enhancements targeted for areas underserved by subways. Citing, in large part, their distrust of the MTA to spend congestion pricing revenue wisely, state legislators turned down the offer from George W. Bush’s DOT and killed the proposal last April.

Here we are a year later, and Albany just passed a toll-free MTA financing package that leaves the agency’s capital plan largely unfunded. Congestion pricing would go a long way toward filling that gap, and self-styled watchdogs Malcolm Smith and Richard Brodsky say the new bill will make the MTA "transparent and accountable" to their liking. So if Barack Obama’s DOT comes back with that $354 million offer, would NYC’s state legislators still walk away from all those transit improvements for their constituents?

  • “LaHood said the money is still there if lawmakers change their minds.”

    Can lost minds be changed?

  • J. Mork

    Where the hell was LaHood while during the recent MTA non-negotiations?

  • J. Mork

    Where the hell was LaHood during the recent MTA non-negotiations?

    (I would totally bother to log in if I could edit my typos after posting.)

  • Good news, if only because it puts CP back into the public discussion about transit’s future. Also, the failure to adopt tolls now makes a kind of sense. Now we can argue for something better.

  • If “free” East River bridges are sacrosanct, what makes anyone think the current legislature would approve an even more radical plan? Sure, talk is good, but certain elected officials aren’t going to be changing their strategy of appeals to faux populism any time soon.

  • fdr

    “So if Barack Obama’s DOT comes back with that $354 million offer, would NYC’s state legislators still walk away from all those transit improvements for their constituents?”

    Yes.

  • Glenn

    I frankly don’t even care about where the money goes from Congestion Pricing. While mass transit improvements would be my first choice, the main idea is to disincentivize folks from driving into congested areas of the metropolitan area.

  • One thing that boggles my mind….

    Despite some councilmembers and state legislators opposition to congestion pricing…

    If the federal government really wants NYC to try this AND give us the federal dollars for it, why not get behind it and issue some sort of statement like the following:

    “I am personally opposed to congestion pricing for reasons (A, B, C, whatever) however in these very desperate financial times where our city/state needs to obtain as much money we can, it would be foolhardy to look the other way. Therefore, I would support a (one year, two year, whatever) trial period to institute congestion pricing so that I can help add $350 million dollars to the coffers of our state to help bring about better transportation infrastructure.”

    The politician would be off the hook – make themselves look good and if it didn’t work out could always say they told us so.

    So what’s the big deal? Oh yeah, I forgot, this is NYC.

  • Clarence, as a matter of fact, CP as proposed for NYC was always intended to be a three-year pilot program. See nyc.gov. Theoretically, all of the electeds (including Brodsky and Silver) could have supported the mayor’s original proposal while committing themselves to nothing more than a pilot program.

  • Mark, yes I know it was intended to be a three year program. But that doesn’t mean that an elected official couldn’t say they support a shorter program, or issue an press release and then commit to a three year program. I was just giving options in case anyone was actually listening.

  • Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan seriously need to look at “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz’s version of the congestion pricing if they’re going to convince outerborough pols to side with the plan.

  • J. Mork

    I like the logic on the Gridlock Sam plan — I wonder if we need a federal law to remove the toll on the Verrazano altogether, or if the legislation in place merely prohibits tolling it in the Brooklyn-bound direction.

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