Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan sputters, still alive

(AP) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's last-minute lobbying for his ambitious toll plan to clear Manhattan traffic congestion ended without the necessary legislative approval Monday, but may have

News 12 Staff

Jul 16, 2007, 10:51 PM

Updated 6,215 days ago

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(AP) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's last-minute lobbying for his ambitious toll plan to clear Manhattan traffic congestion ended without the necessary legislative approval Monday, but may have kept the proposal alive.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver didn't return his chamber toAlbany to vote on the plan, as the proposal's supporters said wasnecessary. But Silver said from Manhattan that he would sign aletter with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Gov. EliotSpitzer that says the state will create a commission to considerthe Democrats' concerns over the "congestion pricing" toll plan.Silver said that should be enough to keep New York City in therunning to be chosen for a federal pilot program and to receive asmuch as $500 million in federal funds.
The Assembly's Democratic majority "came to a conclusion thatthey would support legislation that would establish a commissionthat would examine all of these issues," Silver said.
The Assembly Democrats' are concerned about how much ofManhattan would be subject to entry tolls, the amount of the tolls,creating exemptions, how parking permits will be issued outside thezone for mass transit commuters, and other major aspects ofBloomberg's proposal.
Bruno and Bloomberg had no immediate comment on whether theproposal was still alive.
Senate Democrats also indicated they would withhold theircritical support for the measure to be approved in theRepublican-led Senate, assuming that Monday was the deadline.
But Silver always questioned that deadline, saying a clearagreement short of legislation would likely be good enough for thefederal government.
"We're not going to get rolled, but we'll listen," saidveteran Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who hasraised concerns about Bloomberg's plan.
The mayor believes his measure would reduce Manhattan's trafficgridlock while cleaning the air for kids and reducing greenhousegases blamed for global warming. Bloomberg's plan includes an $8toll for cars and a $21 toll for trucks to enter Manhattan's mostheavily traveled business district during workdays, with the moneygoing toward transportation improvements.
"It's regressive, it's unfair to the outer boroughs, it doesnot necessarily do much for the air," Brodsky said before theDemocratic Assembly conference met privately in Manhattan. Brodskysaid the billionaire mayor has resorted to "threats and bullying"to get his way.
Still, negotiations continued between the Assembly, Senate andSpitzer. Talks could continue into this week despite claims bysupporters that Monday is a drop-dead deadline. In Albany Monday,Bloomberg tried to build a coalition of Republican and Democraticlawmakers.
"We just can't have a 24-hour rush hour and we're headingtoward that," Bloomberg said. "We're going to get ourselves intoa position pretty quickly where we will either have to raise thefares or cut service." That, he said, would encourage moreautomobiles to enter the city and that would be "reallydisastrous."
But Silver, known for holding out on major measures to secureagreements on unrelated objectives, may have succeeded in gettingmore time to alter the proposal or link it with others.
"Things have a way, in this place, of sort of one thing beingdependent on another," Bruno said at the Capitol. "Some peoplecall it linking, some people call it packaging, some people call itinappropriate. Some people call it dysfunctional, but the system iswhat it is and so we're going to function within the systemhopefully getting some positive results for the people of thestate."
Bruno can't count on the votes of his fellow Republican senatorsrepresenting Long Island and the northern suburbs, so the measurewould need support from some Senate Democrats. Senate MinorityLeader Malcolm Smith of Queens said that he wanted changes insubstantial elements of the proposal, including where parking lotswill be built and how the pricing will be enforced.
But Smith also told reporters his conference is seeking morebills unrelated to congestion pricing.
"Congestion pricing is not the only thing the people of thisstate are talking about," Smith said.
Smith said that while many of his members were opposed to theplan, he would support it as long as the Assembly agrees to make itfinal. He said he would try to avoid a Senate vote on the bill ifthe Assembly wouldn't also support it.
The city is among nine municipal finalists for five U.S.Department of Transportation pilot programs to combat urban trafficcongestion and pollution, part of a $1.2 billion outlay for newprograms to ease U.S. gridlock.
In May, a climatic study found that cities covering less than 1percent of the Earth's surface generate 80 percent of itsheat-trapping greenhouse gases.


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