Congestion pricing to drive Albany’s infrastructure agenda in 2018
After this year’s “summer of hell” highlighted problems with the New York City subway system and the need for more investment in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, debating how to pay for transportation upgrades could dominate the 2018 legislative session in Albany.
However, it’s unclear whether the Republicans who control the state Senate and the Democrats holding the Assembly will come together on a shared approach to solving the state’s most pressing transportation and infrastructure issues.
A plan for congestion pricing, which would charge drivers to enter New York City’s most congested areas during peak commuter hours, failed when it was pushed by the Bloomberg administration, but it may have better odds of passage in 2018. In August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that congestion pricing was “an idea whose time has come,” although details have been scant.
One option is the Move New York Fair Plan, which would institute congestion pricing in New York City as a source of funding for the MTA. Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, a Manhattan Democrat, and state Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican, are the lead sponsors of the legislation. State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s Republican conference is typically opposed to higher taxes and fees, but he has not publicly weighed in on Cuomo’s proposal for instituting congestion pricing.
Separately, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has introduced a proposal to apportion 2 percent of the state annual personal income tax towards transit funding, but this plan may face opposition from upstate Republicans.
State Sen. Joseph Robach, the Republican chairman of the Transportation Committee, did not mention congestion pricing as one of his committee’s priorities in an email to City & State. He did allude to longstanding tensions between the transportation needs of New York City, saying that “my upstate colleagues and I have tirelessly fought to achieve parity between funding for upstate roads and bridges and downstate MTA funding.”
In 2016, Cuomo and legislative leaders touted a state budget deal that included $27.14 billion for state Department of Transportation and state Thruway Authority projects and $27.98 billion for the MTA.
Robach also referred to projects that were already approved by the state Legislature but must continue to be monitored, such as reconstruction of the Rochester 390/490 interchange, which was included as part of the five-year Department of Transportation capital plan approved in 2016. He also discussed maintaining funding for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program.
“We must ensure that CHIPS funding continues to be appropriately allocated (as) local municipalities around the state rely on these crucial funds to maintain their local roads,” he said.
MORE INFRASTRUCTURE INITIATIVES ON THE AGENDA
Move NY Fair Plan (A306A/S6287)
This plan would institute congestion pricing by charging tolls on Manhattan’s four East River bridges and for vehicles crossing 60th St. in Manhattan. Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, the chief Assembly sponsor, has called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include the plan in his 2018 State of the State address.
Privatization of Public Infrastructure (A4870/S6296)
This Democratic proposal would require “all public authorities owning, leasing, and controlling critical infrastructure to study the potential consequences of privatization.” It is currently under consideration by the state Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, which oversees state agencies like the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Design-build in New York City (A8134/S6427)
In 2017, Republican state Sen. Andrew Lanza and Democratic Assemblyman Michael Benedetto sponsored this bill to let New York City use design-build project delivery on specific infrastructure projects. The legislation was strongly backed by the de Blasio administration. Although some state agencies can use design-build, which proponents say cuts costs, the bill failed to advance in the state Senate.