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Congestion pricing in Manhattan close to approval

It is the first such plan in the US; proceeds would help pay for much-needed repairs to the city's subway system

New York is poised to put new electronic tolls in place for drivers entering the busiest stretches of Manhattan.

Albany, New York

AFTER years of hesitation, New York is poised to become the first city in the United States to introduce congestion pricing, putting new electronic tolls in place for drivers entering the busiest stretches of Manhattan.

Although state leaders have not ironed out the details, they had reached consensus that the plan was needed to help pay for much-needed repairs to the city's beleaguered subway system. They said the proceeds from congestion pricing would enable the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates the city's public transit network, to raise billions of dollars in bonds to modernise the antiquated subway. Such a windfall overwhelmed lingering concerns about various aspects of the plan, including the cost to suburban commuters who rely on cars.

"Safe to say that the Assembly is ready to go forward on congestion pricing," Carl Heastie, the chamber's speaker, said on Monday; the Democratic-controlled Assembly had been the holdout in endorsing the plan. "We are at the point where Assembly members understand the need to fund the MTA."

The state Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats, and New York governor Andrew Cuomo have already expressed support for congestion pricing, with the governor suggesting that without it subway and bus fares could rise by 30 per cent.

In late February, Mayor Bill de Blasio also warmed to the idea, saying there was no way to address the problems in the subway "without congestion pricing".

Other US cities are exploring variations of congestion pricing, which has helped unclog streets in London, Stockholm and Singapore, but has been assailed by drivers and critics in the US as an unfair tax that especially hurts poor people who do not have access to public transit.

Mr Heastie and other legislative officials stressed that specifics about the planwere still being worked out, although he seemed confident that such issues could be resolved, likely before the state's budget deadline on April 1.

Suburban lawmakers have raised objections about the financial effect on those driving into the city and have also sought to ensure that some of the money from congestion pricing go to commuter railroads. But they now also seemed ready to make a deal.

"Long Island senators have stated clearly that a fair and equitable congestion pricing plan must include a dedicated revenue stream for infrastructure upgrades to the beleaguered LIRR (Long Island Rail Road)," said Todd Kaminsky, a senator who represents Nassau County. "I am optimistic that an agreement can be reached that benefits both the region and the suburban commuter." NYTIMES

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