RELEASE: Gottheimer, Menendez Sound the Alarm on the Congestion Tax’s Harmful Environmental Impact

By Own Admission, MTA’s Congestion Tax Plan Increases Air Pollution in North Jersey, Outer Boroughs. Gottheimer Calls for Full Environmental Impact Study. Will Submit Formal Comment Demanding DOT Reconsider Decision.

May 09, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer and Menendez by the Holland Tunnel highlighting the serious environmental impacts that will be caused by New York’s and the MTA’s Congestion Tax.

JERSEY CITY, NJ — Today, May 9, 2023, just feet from the Holland Tunnel, U.S. Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Rob Menendez (NJ-8) sounded the alarm on the negative environmental impacts of New York’s and the MTA’s proposed Congestion Tax. 

On May 5, 2023, without conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement study, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) blindsided families across Jersey and New York by allowing the MTA to take the next step with their anti-environment, cash-grabbing $23-a-day Congestion Tax plan. By the MTA’s own admission in their report, the Congestion Tax plan would increase traffic, and increase pollutants and mobile air toxins through 2045 in the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Bergen County. 

Gottheimer announced that he will be submitting a formal comment during the 30-day public review period demanding DOT and FHWA reconsider their anti-environment decision.

New York and the MTA admit in their reporting that the Congestion Tax will hurt the environment and increase air pollution:

  • More cars and trucks will be diverted to Northern New Jersey and the outer boroughs just outside of the tolling zone — hurting lower income families. 
  • There will be increases in traffic, pollutants, and mobile air toxins through 2045 in the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Bergen County (pages 10-21, 10-37, and 10-40). 
  • There will be increases in particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide in Bergen County, as well as toxins like formaldehyde (pages 10–26 through 10-34). 
  • In the Bronx alone, it is reported that the diverted traffic will increase the soot from truck traffic by about 5%. The Bronx alone could face 700 more trucks every day, and Bergen County could face countless more trucks to Fort Lee.
  • The MTA is prepared to spend $130 million from tolling to try to mitigate the Congestion Tax’s negative environmental impacts on families in the Bronx and parts of the outer boroughs. However, New Jersey will receive no funding as a part of the MTA’s plan.
  • The MTA’s proposed solutions include installing new air filtration units near schools, more vegetation, and spending $25 million on an asthma treatment program due to the Congestion Tax — an admission of environmental guilt. New Jersey will receive no funding as a part of the MTA’s plan.

Furthermore, according to the MTA’s own projections, if what they say is true and fewer cars go south of 60th Street, the Congestion Tax will leave a billion-dollar hole in lost revenue over the next decade at the Port Authority for their capital projects. 

Port Authority Capital Projects that could be impacted by the MTA’s Congestion Tax include: 

  • Renovating GWB to fix suspension cables.
  • Replacing the Lincoln Tunnel helix.
  • Upgrading the PATH train. 
  • Repairs to Newark, La Guardia, and JFK airports.
  • Renovating the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Governor Hochul recently acknowledged that the Congestion Tax is part of her “plan to rescue the MTA.” The MTA received $15 billion in federal COVID dollars and receives approximately $2 billion annually from the federal government. The MTA’s woeful mismanagement and lax enforcement of fare collection has led to a $2 billion budget deficit. Studies show they lost $500 million to fare skippers last year. 

“Rather than listen to facts and families — like the 75% of those who testified against the Congestion Tax in public hearings — the U.S. Department of Transportation is choosing to ignore the facts that the MTA submitted to the federal government in their own reports about the negative environmental effects of congestion pricing,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus. “In their own report last year, the MTA admitted to the DOT that the Congestion Tax will not only cause more traffic here at the tunnel and at the Lincoln and GW Bridge, but that it will also increase air pollution affecting our children and families. The DOT’s response? Don’t bother submitting a more in-depth environmental impact study. A little odd for an Administration that claims to be committed to protecting the environment. Because of the Congestion Tax moving pollution elsewhere, the MTA is going to have to set up an asthma treatment program. If that’s not an admission of environmental guilt, I don’t know what is!”

“New York’s congestion pricing plan stands to push traffic and pollution to our communities while also shifting revenue from the Port Authority to the MTA,” said Congressman Rob Menendez (NJ-8). “While New York is funding environmental mitigation in the Bronx – they refuse to do so for our communities. And instead of working with us to support the new Port Authority Bus Terminal, PATH service, and to expand the NYC Subway’s 7 line to New Jersey, New York is working to shift revenue to the MTA to the detriment of our bus and train commuters. I am committed to working with Rep. Gottheimer, our Congressional delegation, and Governor Murphy to fight this inequitable plan.”

Watch today’s announcement here.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

It’s great to be back in Jersey City with my good friend, and a phenomenal leader, the Congressman here in New Jersey’s Eighth District, Rob Menendez. Families in Essex and Hudson Counties are incredibly lucky to have Rob as their voice in Congress. He’s a fighter and that’s why we’re standing here today — to stand up for hard-working New Jersey drivers who will soon face New York’s and the MTA’s $23-dollar-a-day Congestion Tax. 

As many of you know, this past Friday, without conducting a full environmental impact study, the U.S. Department of Transportation blindsided families across Jersey and New York by allowing the MTA to take the next step with their cash-grabbing, anti-environment Congestion Tax plan.

That’s why we’re here today to make sure the Department of Transportation hears the voices of the hardworking, middle-class commuters who will be forced to pay this absurd $23/day tax and thousands of young children whose health will be directly harmed by the increased air pollution the Congestion Tax will cause. 

Rather than listen to facts and families — like the 75% of those who testified against the Congestion Tax in public hearings — the U.S. Department of Transportation is choosing to ignore the facts that the MTA submitted to the federal government in their own reports about the serious environmental effects of congestion pricing. Yes, you heard me right. In their own report last year, the MTA admitted to the DOT that the Congestion Tax will not only cause more traffic here at the tunnel and at the Lincoln and GW Bridge, but that it will also have a serious impact on air pollution affecting our children and families.  

The DOT’s response? Don’t bother submitting a more in-depth Environmental Impact Study. A little odd for an Administration that claims to be committed to protecting the environment. 

As the New York Times did on March 28, let me be specific about the MTA’s own admissions. 

The MTA acknowledges in their report that, if their Congestion Tax program goes into effect, there will be more cars diverted here at the Hudson and trucks to Northern New Jersey and the outer boroughs just outside of the tolling zone — hurting lower income families. 

The Bronx alone could face 700 more trucks every day — and countless more trucks to Fort Lee.

As a result, the MTA estimates in their report that there will be increases in traffic, pollutants and mobile air toxins through 2045 in the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Bergen County. 

Specifically, according to the MTA’s report, there will be increases in particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide in Bergen County, as well as toxins like formaldehyde. Yes, formaldehyde. In the Bronx alone, they predict that the diverted traffic will increase the soot from truck traffic by about 5 percent. 

The MTA’s Environmental Assessment is 900 pages long, but these are just a few of the most egregious findings on how the Congestion Tax will hurt the environment. I’m happy to get the page numbers for anyone who wants them.

The negative environmental impacts on families will be so bad that the MTA is prepared to spend $130 million from tolling to try and mitigate them in the Bronx and parts of the outer boroughs — but not a nickel in New Jersey.

Their proposed solutions include having to install new air filtration units near schools, more vegetation, and spending $25 million on an asthma treatment program, which is ridiculous. 

You heard that correctly: because of the Congestion Tax moving pollution elsewhere, they’re going to have to set up an asthma treatment program. If that’s not an admission of environmental guilt, I don’t know what is!

Again, this is not my office creating these stats and figures — it’s from the MTA themselves, the very mismanaged organization that will do anything for a buck. Anything to stem the bleeding of their woefully mismanaged organization that a New York Judge called an “orgy of overtime fraud.” 

Even Governor Hochul recently acknowledged that the Congestion Tax is part of her “plan to rescue the MTA.” They admit it’s just about cash. After all, the MTA is losing two billion dollars a year and blew all $15 billion they received from the federal government during the pandemic. Studies show they lost $500 million to fare skippers last year. And now they want more dollars to pour down the black MTA hole.

Yet, New York State, under Governor Hochul, approved $600 million of state tax dollars to go toward building a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills. Now I love football, but it seems like that $600 million could’ve been used to help bail out the MTA instead of looking to steal from Jersey drivers on the back of the environment. There’s the MTA’s new slogan: riding us will give you higher taxes, more congestion, and plumes of smog.

So, what do we do? That’s why we are here this morning. To sound the alarm on the negative environmental impacts of the proposed Congestion Tax, and to announce that I will be submitting a formal comment this week demanding the Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration reconsider their anti-environment decision. They should ask the MTA for a full environmental impact study.

The DOT has a 30-day public review period to make this right and order a full environmental impact review of the MTA’s proposed Congestion Tax. Here in Jersey and the outer boroughs, we have 30 days of public review period to take the fight to the DOT. And let me clear, both over the next thirty days and beyond, we plan to fight, and fight hard. Governor Murphy has already indicated that the state is looking at the legal options. 

I will also be working closely with my Democratic and Republican House colleagues from New Jersey and New York in the Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus to move expeditiously on two pieces of legislation. 

New York Republican Congressman Mike Lawler and I have introduced new bipartisan federal legislation — the Anti-Congestion Tax Act — which will freeze federal dollars sent each year to the MTA, which totals approximately 2 billion per year — if the agency insists on barreling ahead with this $23-dollar-a-day tax. 

And it will amend the U.S. tax code to offer commuters a federal tax credit at the end of the year equal to the amount they paid in a Congestion Tax. This will protect both Jersey and New York drivers from this absurd new tax.

Nicole Malliotakis and I have also introduced bipartisan legislation demanding a full audit of the MTA to figure out what they did with the $15 billion they received from the federal government during the pandemic. 

Let me be clear: The Congestion Tax will do nothing for mass transit in New Jersey. You will find stronger advocates for mass transit. I helped write and pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill last year that included billions of dollars for NJ Transit and will help build the Gateway Train Tunnel. Not a dime of the Congestion Tax will go here to help reduce air pollution or get fewer cars on the road. It will do nothing to help address the reality that many hard-working New Jersey commuters have no mass transit options — whether that’s in Sussex or Warren Counties, where there is no mass transit, or in Bergen, where it either doesn’t exist or is incredibly limited. 

Many nurses, restaurant workers, or labor have no choice but to drive every day. I hope one day that’s not the case. But right now it is — and it’s not right to suddenly drop a $23 dollar-a-day, or $5,000-a-year bill on top of the $17 dollars they pay to enter this tunnel every day, not including gas or nearly $35 dollars to park.  

And, as Rob knows better than anyone, according to the MTA’s own projections, if what they say is true and fewer cars go south of 60th Street, the Congestion Tax will leave a billion-dollar hole in lost revenue over the next decade at the Port Authority for their capital projects. 

That will put more mass transit at risk, including the new bus terminal in New York City and the Path, and work at LaGuardia, Newark, and Kennedy airports — not to mention critical safety work at the aging GW Bridge, our tunnels, and ports. 

My question to the MTA: How are we going to close this gap? What is the plan?

The MTA is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul to boost revenue for the MTA.

So, I urge Mr. Lieber and the MTA to call it quits on their cash-grabbing Congestion Tax Plan. I urge the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to reconsider their hasty decision. 

I’m continuing to encourage everyone who opposes the Congestion Tax to let your voices be heard over the next 30 days during the public review period — contact the MTA, call your local, state, and federal elected officials — make your voices heard. 

Thank you again and may God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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