Congestion pricing: Gottheimer report shows MTA can raise revenue it needs without additional taxes for N.J. drivers

Analysis shows current MTA congestion tax will greatly exceed $1B revenue goal even if Lincoln/Holland tunnels and G.W. Bridge are exempt from plan

Congestion tax pricing will raise $3.4 billion — or, far more revenue than the $1 billion the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it needs to balance its books and pay for necessary upgrades, according to a report released Thursday by the office of U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

The report also said that, if the three main corridors used by New Jersey drivers were exempt from the congestion tax (the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and the George Washington Bridge), the MTA would still raise $1.4 billion, more than enough to cover the revenue gap determined by the New York State Legislature.

The findings, presented by Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.) at a morning event in Englewood Cliffs, can be found in a Congressional report his office released entitled, “The impact of MTA’s congestion tax on N.J. families.”

Gottheimer’s staff said the data cited in the report came from the Traffic Mobility Review Board’s report to the MTA and public information on tolls and taxes available through the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Gottheimer officials said they used the lowest possible financial scenarios. For instance, they only included revenue collected through EZ Pass (which makes up more than 90% of fees).

The MTA didn’t immediately respond to the report.

There may be little incentive to do so.

While the report seemingly takes the argument around the issue from political statements to statistics, there’s no reason to believe it will have any impact in a fight that has gone nowhere despite a war of words and two lawsuits. (In other words, it may have no more impact than the repeated political statements against the federal government’s rules regarding the State and Local Property Tax, or SALT.)

Congestion pricing, which will charge vehicles various additional tolls when they enter Manhattan below 60th Street, was approved by the MTA on Dec. 6, triggering a 60-day public comment period. It potentially could be implemented this spring.

New York officials have said congestion tax pricing is as much about helping the environment (by potentially increasing public transportation while reducing private vehicles) as it is a revenue source (it will cost commuters up to $22.50 a day and potentially $5,850 annually — on top of the $17 that already is being paid).

Gottheimer said Thursday that it is a misguided plan that unfairly puts a burden for New York services on New Jersey residents.

Gottheimer placed full blame for the issue on the MTA, which he said is one of the worst-run mass transit systems in the country. He said the report’s findings on the extent of what he calls New York’s “greed” are “astonishing and galling.”

There is, however, good news.

Gottheimer said his report shows there’s no reason New Jersey drivers can’t be exempt from the congestion tax.

“Their own numbers, and all the numbers that are publicly available, prove that they do not need any revenue from Jersey,” he said. “Instead of making Jersey pay for the MTA’s woeful mismanagement, New Yorkers can pay for New York’s problems.”

The numbers may be worse than first reported, Gottheimer said.

Gottheimer noted rules in the proposal, which give the MTA the ability to declare any day a “gridlock alert” day, which automatically raises the tax by 25%. In addition, the MTA has the right to increase the base cost by 10% each year.

“I’ve never seen anybody give themselves the authority to raise by 10% and not actually do it,” he said.

The report questioned whether there will be any environmental benefits.

Gottheimer’s team estimated that the variety of costs at the New Jersey crossings will lead to more toll shopping, and potentially more truck traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

“The congestion tax will result in an increase of pollutants and toxins — including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and even formaldehyde, a carcinogen — in New Jersey communities and the surrounding New York outer boroughs,” the report said.

“This would be the direct result of the increased traffic diverted from Manhattan to New Jersey, including an estimation of nearly a thousand additional trucks into Fort Lee.”

Then there’s this: A belief that New York commuters should bear the brunt of costs to pay for New York needs.

Gottheimer’s report said Jerseyans already pay a tremendous amount for those services. Through current tolls to cross the Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel, George Washington Bridge, Bayonne Bridge, Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing, the report said New York generated $1.8 billion in 2022 from these New Jersey to New York crossings.