Orange County requires protection from congestion pricing

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Earlier this year, the governor’s Fix NYC panel released a report that laid out the framework of a congestion pricing plan to reduce gridlock in Manhattan.

While I certainly understand the need to address traffic in New York City and repair its crumbling subway, the solution should not fall on the backs of Orange County taxpayers.

Under the proposal, drivers entering Manhattan south of 60th Street would pay a new $11.52 toll, while taxis and ride-sharing passengers would pay a $2 to $5 surcharge.

For commuters from the outer boroughs, Long Island and east-of-Hudson, many drivers will be able to shift to public transit and avoid the new toll.

West-of-Hudson’s Orange and Rockland drivers, however, do not have that same opportunity.

We do not have subways, we do not have buses anywhere near the scale of what’s in the five boroughs and we do not have adequate rail.

We do not have a one-seat train into Manhattan – necessitating a transfer in New Jersey – and we have not benefitted from any mega-projects like other regions have seen such as LIRR’s East Side Access and New York City’s Second Avenue Subway.

The result is that for every dollar Orange County taxpayers pay into the MTA system, we receive less than 65 cents back in services.

While I have worked tirelessly to close that value gap in recent years – securing a midway train yard and passing sidings in the current five-year capital plan – there is still a ways to go.

According to a 2014-2015 Port Authority study, residents from Orange and Rockland counties account for 10,823 one-way daily trips over the George Washington Bridge and through the Lincoln Tunnel; this represents approximately 7 percent of these crossings’ weekday traffic and these taxpayers, many of whom I represent, deserve a carve-out from congestion pricing.

Working with like-minded colleagues, I am adamantly pushing to ensure Orange County drivers are not disadvantaged by any proposal that moves forward. We can come up with a solution that eases New York City’s gridlock and subway issues without Orange County residents shouldering the costs.

Assemblyman James Skoufis

D-99th Assembly District

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