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Tolls start in 2021 for drivers heading to Manhattan

New York

AFTER years of delay, New York state lawmakers on Monday approved charging a toll for drivers heading into downtown Manhattan with the goal of relieving traffic congestion and raising funds for the city's subway system - a first for a US city.

The toll, similar to measures taken in London, Stockholm and Singapore, will begin at the latest by Dec 31, 2021, according to a measure approved by the New York State Assembly in Albany.

Nearly all vehicles transiting below 60th Street in Manhattan will need to pay a toll, according to the measure, although some practical details still need to be ironed out.

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A panel of experts must now decide the exact amount to be paid. Estimates are that passenger vehicles will pay at least US$12 a day, while trucks will pay US$25.

The measure, supported by the state's Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo - re-elected to office in November - has been praised by environmental advocates but denounced as unfair in nearby New Jersey and neighbourhoods around Manhattan such as Queens.

Drivers say the toll will especially hit workers who live in areas far from public transportation and who rely on their cars to drive to and from work.

Many of the bridges and tunnels leading to the island of Manhattan already charge tolls. The new toll would be on top of those fees.

In a country that has long favoured cars over public transportation, and in a metropolis like New York where the use of on-demand ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft has exploded, the goal to raise money for the subway system appears unusual.

It could serve as a model for other cities with heavy traffic congestion such as San Francisco or Los Angeles. AFP