New York transit agency looks for capital cuts after halt to congestion pricing

Incident at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) -New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Monday it is looking for cuts to capital projects and is concerned about federal grants after Governor Kathy Hochul ordered an indefinite halt to congestion pricing in Manhattan.

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said the agency was working to avoid cuts to service after Hochul last week put on hold the planned toll on drivers entering Manhattan's central business district that was set to begin on June 30. "We're going to fight like hell to make sure we don't have to reduce service," Lieber said at a press conference.

Lieber said the MTA is conducting an intensive review to "reorder, reprioritize and shrink" the capital program. "We simply cannot award contracts without dedicate funding in place," Lieber said.

New York City's congestion pricing program, the first of its kind in the U.S., would have charged a toll of $15 during daytime hours for vehicles driving in Manhattan south of 60th Street. London implemented a similar charge in 2003.

MTA has said the charge would cut traffic by 17%, improve air quality and increase transit use by 1% to 2%, as well as generating $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year and supporting $15 billion in debt financing for mass-transit improvement.

On Monday, Hochul told reporters she wants to find funding sources for the MTA projects. "I am committed to these projects," she said.

Hochul cited high inflation and a desire to prevent commuters or tourists from opting not to visit because of the charge.

In 2019, state lawmakers approved the plan to help fund improvements in mass transit using tolls to manage New York City's traffic, the most congested of any U.S. city. Congestion pricing had been projected to start in 2021 but the federal government under President Donald Trump took no action.

New York says more than 900,000 vehicles enter the Manhattan Central Business District daily, which reduces travel speeds to

around 7 mph (11 kph) on average.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)