Traffic in Jersey City, New Jersey headed toward Manhattan on...

Traffic in Jersey City, New Jersey headed toward Manhattan on August 17. New Jersey sued to stop congestion pricing on Friday. Credit: Corbis via Getty Images/VIEW press

The state of New Jersey filed a federal lawsuit Friday seeking to block the implementation of the MTA’s congestion pricing plan, arguing that federal regulators turned a “blind eye” to the negative impacts the new tolls would have on drivers from across the Hudson River.

The 68-page suit, filed in U.S. District Court of New Jersey, attacks as “inexplicable” the finding by U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s “Central Business District Tolling Program” will not have a significant environmental impact.

That decision, which cleared the way for the MTA to enact the new tolls as soon as May, “disregarded the significant impacts to New Jersey’s environment,” according to the suit.

The Federal Highway Administration "not only failed to adequately consider the environment impacts on New Jersey; it also ignored the significant financial burden being placed on New Jerseyans and New Jersey’s transportation system as a result of this congestion pricing scheme,” said the suit, which seeks a court ruling "vacating and setting aside" the completed environmental review. 

What to know:

  • The State of New Jersey has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the MTA’s congestion pricing program, which would charge new tolls of up to $34.50 as early as May for vehicles driving below 60th Street in Manhattan.

  • The lawsuit alleges that the Federal Highway Administration erred by finding that the plan would have “no significant environmental impact.” Congestion pricing would negatively impact New Jersey residents by making their commutes more costly, diverting traffic to some of their roads, and polluting the air.

  • Federal transportation regulators would not comment, but a senior MTA official called the claims “baseless,” and Gov. Kathy Hochul said regardless of the suit, “congestion pricing is going to happen.”

A spokesperson for the Federal Highway Administration said the agency "does not comment on pending litigation." 

Gov. Kathy Hochul, speaking at an event in Syracuse on Friday, appeared undeterred by the lawsuit.

"Congestion pricing is going to happen. It has gone through a long process of review at the federal level … The state of New York is committed," said Hochul, who maintained that New Jersey commuters would also benefit from the reduced traffic and transit upgrades that would come with the plan. "We're going to make these changes regardless of what happens."

In a statement, MTA external communications chief John McCarthy called the lawsuit “baseless,” and defended the environmental review process, which he said “covered every conceivable potential traffic, air quality, social and economic effect” of congestion pricing.

“We’re confident the federal approval — and the entire process — will stand up to scrutiny,” McCarthy said.

The toll plan would charge vehicles up to $34.50 for driving below 60th Street in Manhattan, and up to $23 for E-ZPass drivers. Project supporters say the plan would reduce traffic congestion in Manhattan, improve air quality, and generate $1 billion annually for MTA infrastructure investments, including on the Long Island Rail Road.

But, as the suit points out, none of the money would go toward New Jersey’s transit system, “even though more than 400,000 New Jersey residents commute into Manhattan every day and will pay millions of dollars to the MTA under this congestion pricing scheme.”

In addition to the financial impact, by diverting traffic, the plan could increase congestion and air pollution in some New Jersey communities, the suit argues. The MTA has promised to spend $130 million to address air pollution caused by the plan in some Bronx communities, but not in the Garden State.

“The end result is that New Jersey will bear much of the burden of this congestion pricing scheme — in terms of environmental, financial, and human impacts — but receive none of its benefits,” the suit said.

New Jersey state officials have remained vehemently opposed to the plan, and, in the lawsuit, accused federal regulators of “favoring New York at the expense of its neighbors.”

“We can’t fix a broken MTA in New York City on the back of New Jersey commuters,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said, as quoted in the suit. “It’s a huge tax on them, and frankly, it challenges our environment because of all the rerouting of traffic that will take place.”

New York transit advocates, who have lobbied for decades for the passage of a congestion pricing plan, condemned the lawsuit. Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, which includes the LIRR Commuter Council, said New Jersey is losing sight of the fact that its own drivers and transit users would benefit from “less traffic, cleaner air, and funding for the transit system that millions use every day.”

“New Jersey doesn’t ask New Yorkers for input on how to run their streets, nor should they,” Daglian said. “Instead of this desperate attempt to block one of the most transformative policies of our time, lawmakers in New Jersey should … invest in their own transit network.”

Murphy's office couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

In a tweet announcing the lawsuit, the governor's office said federal government regulators “have unlawfully fast-tracked the (MTA’s) attempt to line its coffers at the expense of New Jersey families. We stand united against the unjust taxation of our residents.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who has also spoken against congestion pricing, said the county "has no intention" of filing its own lawsuit. 

"However, congestion pricing is just another tax that is driving people away from New York City," Blakeman said in a statement. "Nassau County will be the beneficiary of this ill-advised new tax, as people will realize that Nassau has great cultural, entertainment, shopping, recreation and dining choices.”

Israel-Hamas conflict resumes ... Doug Geed's final East End Show ... Hometown Flower Co. opens Credit: Newsday

Santos expulsion vote ... National Christmas tree lighting ... Dickens Festival kick-off ... Feed Me: Best Pizza

Israel-Hamas conflict resumes ... Doug Geed's final East End Show ... Hometown Flower Co. opens Credit: Newsday

Santos expulsion vote ... National Christmas tree lighting ... Dickens Festival kick-off ... Feed Me: Best Pizza

Latest videos

Newsday LogoYour Island. Your Community. Your News.Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months