According to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, his state’s drivers entering Manhattan through Hudson River toll entrances won’t have to pay a congestion tax. Murphy said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised him the exemption during a conversation in April. The exemption would save N.J. residents from a “double-hit” when congestion pricing takes effect in 2021.

“This understanding is that NJ commuters will be treated equally at all Hudson River crossings, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and the George Washington Bridge,” Murphy said. “New Jersey will also have a seat at the table as the plan moves forward.”

Murphy said his talk with Cuomo revolved around the Port Authority plan to implement cashless tolling at the Hudson River crossings, which could be used to credit drivers who are hit with both the crossing toll and the congestion pricing toll.

Cuomo spokesman Patrick Muncie acknowledged that cashless tolling at the crossings is long overdue, but denied there had been a promise of an exemption for NJ drivers.

“The MTA will determine congestion pricing and will be doing a traffic study over the next two years,” said Muncie. “They will consider all crossings, as well as New Jersey crossings. No conclusions will be reached by the MTA until all studies are completed.”

There was no language in the congestion pricing legislation passed in April that guaranteed New Jersey drivers would not have to pay tolls at both the Hudson River crossings and Manhattan’s central business district below 61st St. Any further exemptions are at the discretion of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board. Experts have warned that “carve outs” would lead to higher tolls so enough money can be raised for major subway upgrades.

In fact, MTA officials appear to be baffled by Murphy’s comments. The agency has yet to appoint its new six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board, which will offer advice on how the tolling system will work. New Jersey does not have a seat on that board.

Sam Schwartz, whose Move NY Fair plan is used as a framework for Manhattan’s congestion pricing scheme, said providing credits to drivers crossing the Lincoln and Holland tunnels makes sense, but he has concerns about doing the same for the George Washington Bridge. He said George Washington Bridge congestion pricing exemptions would cause a “sizable” toll increase to those paying if the program is going to raise $15 billion, as required through the state budget.

Source: Daily News

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