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Vehicle toll proposal for N.Y. gets new fuel

August 15, 2007|Ann Givens | Newsday

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's plan to reduce midtown Manhattan traffic by collecting tolls from vehicles that travel to the city on weekdays got a major boost Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would pay $354 million to launch the plan.

Still, "congestion pricing" is hardly a done deal. The city won't get the money unless state legislators approve Bloomberg's plan or an alternative to it within 90 days of reconvening -- roughly by the end of March, Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said at a news conference.

So far, all state lawmakers have agreed to do is appoint a commission to study the plan. That commission's recommendations, expected by Jan. 31, must then be brought back to the City Council and state Legislature for final approval.

"This is a very significant piece of what we need to begin this process," said Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who answered questions on the announcement with Bloomberg at an affordable-housing news conference in the Bronx on Tuesday. "We feel great that we will get this done."

The mayor's plan is to charge cars $8 and trucks $21 to enter Manhattan below 86th Street on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Motorists within the zone would also have to pay, but the charges would be lower. Bloomberg said it would be a way to reduce congestion and pollution while creating a steady source of money for transit improvements.

Some lawmakers from Long Island and the four boroughs outside Manhattan have said it would squeeze their constituents who commute into the city; stress public transportation; and cause parking problems outside the toll areas.

"We're not married to any one plan; we're married to reducing congestion so the economy isn't hurt and so our air is better," Bloomberg said. The $354 million, which Bloomberg says he will use to pay for the plan's start-up costs, is about $150 million less than the city had asked for, but about $150 million more than the amount the Legislature set as a minimum for the commission to proceed.

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