RELEASE: Gottheimer, Senator Menendez Urge Department of Transportation to Further Investigate the Negative Environmental Impacts of the Congestion Tax

MTA Admits the Congestion Tax Will Increase Air Pollution, Carcinogens, and Traffic in NJ

Jun 12, 2023
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT), urging them to further investigate the environmental impact of the MTA’s Congestion Tax with a full Environmental Impact Statement. By the MTA’s own admission in their report, their Congestion Tax plan would increase pollutants and mobile air toxins, including carcinogens through 2045 in the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Bergen County. 

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) and the DOT “Draft Finding of No Significant Impact for the New York City Central Business District Tolling Program (Draft FONSI)” will devastate the health and safety of New Jersey children and families. 

“Despite concessions from the MTA that nearly $100 million of further negative environmental mitigation efforts may be needed in communities in New Jersey’s Bergen and Essex Counties and other communities surrounding the Central Business District, the FHWA did not request a full Environmental Impact Statement,” wrote Congressman Josh Gottheimer and Senator Menendez in a Letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “According to the MTA’s own report last year, 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. This would be the direct result of the increased traffic diverted from Manhattan to New Jersey into towns in our state, including an estimation of nearly a thousand additional trucks into Fort Lee, New Jersey.”

The letter continues, “We are deeply concerned with the FHWA and the DOT’s willingness to move ahead with the Congestion Tax. We ask that you reconsider such approval. New Jersey families stand to be hit the hardest, paying more to commute while being subject to more traffic and more pollution.”

The MTA’s initial Environmental Assessment admitted 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, carbon monoxide, and carcinogens like formaldehyde 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%. Bergen County could face nearly a thousand 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.

In May, Gottheimer sounded the alarm on the negative environmental impacts of New York’s and the MTA’s proposed Congestion Tax.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

June 9, 2023

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Buttigieg:

On behalf of communities and families we represent across New Jersey, during this thirty-day public review period, we are writing to urge you to reconsider the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) and the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “Draft Finding of No Significant Impact for the New York City Central Business District Tolling Program (Draft FONSI).”

The findings confirmed in the Draft FONSI make clear that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Central Business District Tolling Program, hereafter referred to as the “Congestion Tax”, will devastate New Jersey commuters and families. Despite concessions from the MTA that nearly $100 million of further negative environmental mitigation efforts may be needed in communities in New Jersey’s Bergen and Essex Counties and other communities surrounding the Central Business District, the FHWA did not request a full Environmental Impact Statement. Instead, the FHWA merely accepts that the MTA will consider placement of these additional mitigation efforts in impacted communities after implementation, if deemed necessary by further analyses conducted by the MTA itself. It is clear that the Draft FONSI fails to fully appreciate and mitigate the expected environmental harm to NJ. A program of this magnitude and large-scale environmental impact should require more than the sole judgment of the agency seeking to implement it.

The MTA has long claimed that the Congestion Tax will help the environment. But, according to the MTA’s own report last year, 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. This would be the direct result of the increased traffic diverted from Manhattan to New Jersey into towns in our state, including an estimation of nearly a thousand additional trucks into Fort Lee, New Jersey.

The Congestion Tax serves as nothing more than a potential $23-per-day frivolous tax on commuters, many of whom may have no other option but to drive into Manhattan for work, to drive their children to school, or for doctor’s appointments. This tax is on top of the daily tolls New Jersey drivers already pay to drive into Manhattan. Despite this, the MTA’s proposed discounts fail to provide any relief for hard- working New Jersey middle class families.

We are deeply concerned with the FHWA and the DOT’s willingness to move ahead with the Congestion Tax. We ask that you reconsider such approval. New Jersey families stand to be hit the hardest, paying more to commute while being subject to more traffic and more pollution. We look forward to hearing from you on this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Josh Gottheimer

MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Robert Menendez

UNITED STATES SENATOR

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