Motorcyclists May Steer Clear of New Congestion-Pricing Fee

Motorcyclists May Steer Clear of New Congestion-Pricing Fee


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, riding in a breast cancer awareness event in 2016.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, riding in a breast cancer awareness event in 2016.


Photo:

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Motorcyclists might avoid a new congestion toll for entering the core of Manhattan that would apply to other vehicles, New York lawmakers said.

The biker exemption is one of many carve-outs under consideration as officials haggle over the final details of a congestion pricing system this weekend. They hope to reach a resolution before Monday, the deadline for the state assembly and senate to adopt a budget of more than $175 billion.

Lawmakers have finalized four of the 10 budget bills and are preparing to work through the weekend. The agreed-upon bills include the authority to close two state prisons, direct $5 million of special aid to the city of Albany, require restaurants and grocers to send food waste to designated processing facilities, restrict the release of mug shots, ban plastic bags and allow counties or cities to adopt a fee of 5 cents on paper bags.

But big ticket items remain on the negotiating table. Legislators haven’t finalized language to potentially restrict the use of cash bail, create a system of public campaign financing or enact congestion pricing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

“We have basic issues that are unresolved,” the Democratic governor said in a public radio interview.

Mr. Cuomo said governance changes for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority were also being discussed, and that he would nominate MTA President Patrick Foye as chair of the authority’s board. The acting chairman, Fernando Ferrer, took the reins of the board when Joseph Lhota resigned last year.

Democrats who control both chambers say they have generally agreed to adopt congestion pricing as a way to raise money for the MTA. Mr. Cuomo and leaders of that authority say it must net $1 billion a year, enough to fund $15 billion of capital improvements over coming years.

The toll is designed to raise revenue and push people to use mass transit, but not every vehicle would pay a full toll for driving into Manhattan south of 60th Street. Lawmakers and Mayor Bill de Blasio say there should be exemptions for people with disabilities. At one point the mayor suggested an exemption for trucks servicing the city’s farmers markets.

Mr. Cuomo’s plan would give drivers a credit for tolls they already pay to use the Henry Hudson Bridge as well as the Lincoln, Holland, Queens Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels. There is a push by lawmakers in the northern suburbs to add the Tappan Zee and George Washington bridges.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, said there is a push to add the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge to the list. Mr. Heastie worried that a “double toll” for drivers who use this bridge and head south in Manhattan could cause additional congestion on non-tolled bridges over the Harlem River.

“When all of the iterations of what the final pie looks like, you have to make sure you’ve accounted for not causing these traffic nightmares,” he said Thursday. “We’re just trying to fish through those things.”

A panel whose exact form hasn’t been finalized would set the toll rates, lawmakers said. They are also discussing whether to empower the panel to study and grant additional exemptions—a move which could help win over some still recalcitrant legislators from the suburbs and outer boroughs.

But other exemptions could be spelled out in law, including for the disabled, for poor residents who live in the congestion zone, or even for motorcycles. Assemblyman Robert Carroll is trying to limit exemptions and maximize funding for the MTA.

“That sounds idiotic,” the Brooklyn Democrat said. “What we’re trying to do here is not just raise revenue, but reorder our streets and get people on mass transit.”

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, another Brooklyn Democrat, said Friday that an exemption for motorcycles was a “common sense environmental issue” because they cause less congestion and take up less space than cars.

“It’s still in the conversation,” Mr. Ortiz said. “I’m not a motorcycle rider, but Cuomo is. He’ll probably be sympathetic.”

A spokesman for the governor, who occasionally rides a custom-painted Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide touring bike, didn’t immediately comment.

Write to Jimmy Vielkind at Jimmy.Vielkind@wsj.com

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About Craig Ballantyne 15176 Articles
I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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