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New York truckers sue over congestion pricing plan

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(The Center Square) — New York City’s congestion pricing plan faces a new legal challenge from truckers, who say the new tolls will unfairly charge them as much as $36 per trip to enter the city.

A federal lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Thursday by the Trucking Association of New York, claims the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s soon-to-be-implemented congestion pricing unfairly targets trucking and logistics companies, which will be charged higher rates than passenger vehicles.

Under the plan, trucks would be charged $24 to $36 per trip into the congestion zone below 60th Street in Manhattan, depending on their size, compared to $15 per day for passenger vehicles.

“The MTA’s reckless congestion pricing policy ignores the warnings and counsel of industry experts on both sides of the Hudson, who warn that the discriminatory way trucks and logistics companies are targeted by the plan will increase costs for residents everywhere,” TANY President Kendra Hems said in a statement.

“This lawsuit was a step we took only out of necessity after the MTA repeatedly refused to make any concessions to our industry and ultimately used our essential, hard-working members as a tool to meet their arbitrary funding requirements,” Helms said. “We hope that we can, through this litigation process, create a more equitable and fair policy that works for New York City.”

The trucking group points to a 2017 MTA study which found that reducing commercial vehicle tolls in off-peak hours has no impact on vehicle crossing times, “underscoring that trucks enter New York City when they have to, not when they want to.”

“As such, the lawsuit argues that the MTA — knowing that truck demand is inelastic and unlikely to be altered by higher tolls — unfairly targeted trucks with higher rates to raise the mandated $1 billion,” lawyers for the association wrote in the lawsuit.

A MTA spokesperson declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The truckers’ lawsuit is the latest legal challenge to the congestion pricing plan, which is also facing a lawsuit filed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who has called the scheme a “cash grab” for the transit agency.

Under the new tolling charges, which were approved by the MTA Board of Directors in March, motorists will be charged an additional $15 to enter Manhattan at 61st Street and below, while trucks could be charged between $24 and $36, depending on their size. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft will pay a $2.50 surcharge.

Supporters, like Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, say the “first-of-its-kind” program will reduce traffic, congestion and tailpipe pollution while raising billions of dollars to support the city’s public transit system.

The only exemptions from the new toll charges will be for public school buses, commuter buses and “essential” government vehicles, according to the MTA. The agency plans to offer a 25% discount for low-income commuters, or those making $50,000 or less annually, and on-peak and off-peak tolls if they make at least 10 trips to the zone.

Officials estimate the new congestion fees will bring in about $1 billion annually, which the MTA will use as leverage to borrow more money for its $51 billion multi-year capital plan.

The transportation authority faces a potential $2.6 billion budget deficit in 2025 and is seeking more state funding to help reduce its projected shortfalls.