Hochul paves the way for congestion charges with new laws and penalties for toll evaders

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Hochul paves the way for congestion charges with new laws and penalties for toll evaders


The changes proposed in the budget also allow the state to charge drivers with a misdemeanor if they falsely claim an exemption from the toll program by lying about transporting a person with a disability. This is one of the few exceptions included in the original law, allowing the state to introduce congestion charges. Fines are set at up to $5,000.

“Governor Hochul’s budget proposals will help clamp down on those attempting to evade tolls, and we will work with lawmakers and the MTA to ensure everyone is obeying the rules of the road,” said Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokeswoman for the governor wrote in a statement.

At a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Wednesday, members grilled Hochul’s first candidate for the MTA board, Elizabeth Velez. Sen. Brad Hoylman asked if she would support the rapid implementation of congestion charging.

“The idea of ​​congestion charges is compelling,” she said, adding that it’s a great way for the MTA to increase revenue. But she added: “I think we need to listen to the community and see how this will impact the residents of these areas and the small businesses that are going in and out of the affected zones.”

The MTA has already held 10 public meetings on congestion charging, and although some people complained about the tolls, the majority of those who spoke at the meetings supported the program.

While state laws exempt emergency vehicles, vehicles transporting disabled people, and residents who live in the zone and earn less than $60,000 by paying the congestion fee, there are currently no other exemptions. At the Senate hearing, Senator Leroy Comrie did not ask for any more exemptions, but his colleague, Senator James Skoufis, asked Velez to consider a “dollar-for-dollar loan” for Orange and Rockland County residents who support the George Washington Cross the bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel, both of which are tolls, and then enter the congestion zone.

Those drivers, Skoufis said, “will be charged twice if they have no alternative to public transport.”

At the same Senate hearing on Wednesday, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber — who has served as a deputy since Thursday — confirmed that the agency would set up the city’s mandated group — the Transportation Mobility Review Board — by this summer and state officials who will determine the final charging structure and exemptions for congestion charges.

The MTA, which currently operates seven bridges and two tunnels, reports that of the $2 billion it makes annually, it loses about $4 million a year to toll evaders. Still, the agency insists it has a good system in place to root out toll evaders.

When letters and requests for suspension of registration sent to Scofflaws don’t work, the agency can simply evict the persistent violator from its facilities. And if the person continues to use the bridges or tunnels, an MTA police officer can arrest the driver.

“We also have your travel patterns. So we know that a certain persistent toll violator can get through at a certain time. And we can position (police) vehicles at that particular time on that particular day and think we might get hit by this persistent toll violator,” Daniel DeCrescenzo, President of MTA Bridge and Tunnels, said recently. “We’re always after the money.”



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