While a plan that could charge Garden State drivers an extra fee of up to $23 during peak hours to travel into Manhattan awaits federal approval, advocates for the plan suggest too many people are focused on the dollar signs and not the reasoning behind the proposal.

An extended comment period on New York's congestion pricing plan recently wrapped up. Now it's on the state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to submit a response to the Federal Highway Administration and see if they're granted approval to move ahead with the plan that aims to reduce the vehicle load in the Central Business District and bring in extra revenue for transit projects.

An official fee scale has not yet been decided. Proposals have ranged from $9 to $23 for non-commercial vehicles traveling below 60th Street during peak hours.

"This isn't about penalizing you, in particular. It's about a mode shift," Renae Reynolds, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, told New Jersey 101.5. "It's about investing in mass transit, it's about saying, maybe you don't have to drive into the CBD every day."

Rendering of NYC congestion pricing
Rendering of a proposed mast arm housing tolling infrastructure and tolling system equipment over the roadway at Broadway between 60th and 61st Streets in Manhattan (MTA)

According to an analysis by TSTC, more than 75% of New Jersey-Manhattan commuters ride public transit. Less than 2% of New Jersey workers overall would be subject to the new charge, the analysis found, and the median income of New Jersey car commuters into Manhattan is $107,996.

"Congestion pricing is putting a big thumb on the scale to reduce driving and encourage transit ridership, reduce air pollution and climate pollutants," said Doug O'Malley, director of the Environment New Jersey.

Plan supporters held a rally Thursday in Jersey City, arguing that the benefits of tolling the busy commercial district to fund public transit will be shared by New Jerseyans and New Yorkers.

"For the small percentage that do want or need to continue driving into the city, they're going to have less traffic," said Zoe Baldwin, New Jersey director for Regional Plan Association.

On the same day as the rally, the New Jersey Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee advanced a resolution that opposes the congestion pricing plan.

"In New Jersey, we're being disproportionately punished by congestion pricing," Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips, R-Bergen, said before the vote.

Gov. Phil Murphy has indicated that he "loves the concept" of congestion pricing, but suggested it should only occur if New Jersey drivers are given credits for tolls already paid at the Hudson River crossings.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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