August 20, 2021
Federal Approval Granted To Kick Off The Environmental Assessment and Public Outreach Process for Nation’s First Central Business District Tolling Program
MTA, NYS DOT, NYC DOT Working Collaboratively To See Through Long Awaited Congestion Pricing Program After Overcoming 20-Month Delay from Previous Federal Administration
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) today announced agreement to kick off the Environmental Assessment that will jump-start the public outreach process for the proposed Central Business District Tolling Program.
Under the plan, which was developed with the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Environmental Assessment (EA) is scheduled to take 16 months and include more than 20 public meetings and outreach to Environmental Justice communities in relevant areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Though the Central Business District Tolling Program (CBDTP) Environmental Assessment is unprecedented in its complexity of interlinked variables and covers an extraordinarily broad geographic scope—significantly larger than is typically covered in an Environmental Assessment—the agreed upon 16-month time-frame is actually shorter than those done for many projects with relatively small geographic, population and environmental footprints.
Environmental Assessment and Outreach Unprecedented in Scope
Incorporating and documenting all this public input, the Project Partners will create an Environmental Assessment document analyzing the impact of Central Business District Tolling on traffic congestion, transit, air quality and numerous other environmental indicators in 28 counties across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. All told, the Study Area contains 22 million people, including 12.3 million residents residing in environmental justice communities, and five Tribal Nations.
The EA will make use of nearly a dozen different models and data sets to assess impacts to traffic and public transportation for a regional transportation network with 28.8 million journeys per average weekday, 61,000 highway linkage points, 4,600 traffic analysis zones, 44,267 bus stops or transit stations, 4,170 transit routes, and more than a dozen public transportation providers in addition to the MTA, including NJ TRANSIT, PATH, ferries, and regional bus systems including Westchester County Bee-Line, NICE, and Suffolk County Transit.
Robust Public Outreach
The “robust public outreach” effort required by FHWA will commence in coming weeks with meetings with federal, state and local agencies from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Those meetings will be followed by 10 virtual public meetings that will be held online and start in late September in which individuals and stakeholder groups can learn about the project and comment.
Besides the public meetings, there will be additional briefings for elected officials, community boards, transit and environmental advocates, and other interested parties.
A project website and informational handout will be rolled out in coming days.
Focus on Environmental Justice for Minority and Low-Income Communities
The public outreach will also place heightened attention on Environmental Justice communities in relevant counties in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to study potential positive and adverse impacts the proposed CBDTP could have on minority or low-income populations. In addition to the public outreach meetings, there will be an additional three virtual public meetings in early October with specific outreach to EJ communities in the same 28-county Study Area. An Environmental Justice Technical Group and a separate EJ Stakeholder Working Group will also be created in coming weeks.
The Central Business District Tolling Program was authorized by the State in April 2019 and modeled on urban congestion pricing programs around the world to reduce traffic congestion and raise needed revenue to improve public transportation. Other cities across the world that have similar programs have also experienced improved air quality. If approved by FHWA, the CBDTP would be the first such program in the United States.
“We are operating on an extraordinarily expedited and aggressive environmental review timeframe, yet one that will be painstakingly thorough, and we hope can serve as a model for other U.S. communities considering similar congestion pricing systems,” said MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “This is a crucial project for the MTA and our riders– both because it will improve air quality and reduce traffic and also because revenue from the CBDTP will be used to support our historic $51.5B 2020-24 capital program. Our recent successfulprojects like the LIRR Main Line Expansion show how the MTA is able do unprecedented levels of public outreach and also deliver projects on schedule at the same time. We intend to do just that again here.”
“We are delighted that the environmental review process for CBD tolling has started. Getting congestion pricing in place quickly is essential for the city’s recovery from the pandemic, as it will help get New Yorkers out of their cars and onto sustainable modes like transit and biking, as well as provide essential funding to modernize and expand our rail and bus systems," said New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman. "I appreciate the commitment of our state and federal partners to this project and look forward to working with them to further expedite the process “
"I applaud Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Acting Federal Highway Adminstrator Stephanie Pollack and our partners at the United States Department of Transportation for their commitment to helping New York State implement the nation’s first congestion pricing program,” said New York State Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez. “This unprecedented initiative will serve to reduce traffic congestion, mitigate harmful carbon emissions, and generate revenues to renew and modernize the region’s public transportation system; core goals of New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”
The feedback gathered in the public meetings will be part of the Environmental Assessment that will be published for public review. Following the release of the EA, the MTA will hold additional public meetings for comment specifically on the document.