By Heather Grossmann
MANHATTAN — Congestion pricing went from being dead as a doornail to alive and well yesterday, thanks to the MTA’s crippling budget crisis and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s trip to the international climate change summit.
During Wednesday’s heated MTA budget meeting, board members Allen Cappelli, Andrew Alpert and others blasted Albany for shooting down the mayor’s controversial plan in 2008.
They added that they might not have been $343 million in the red if legislators had approved East River Bridge tolls or some other form of congestion pricing.
Bloomberg also trumpeted the issue all the way to Copenhagen, where he attended the U.N. climate change summit Tuesday.
"Come March, [the MTA is] going to have to balance a budget, and I think any kind of revenue source is going to be on the table, and it may in fact still get done," Bloomberg told CNBC.
"If we had done congestion pricing two years ago, perhaps they wouldn't be in this situation."
But according to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the mayor is much to blame for Manhattan's heavy traffic.
"[T]he mayor has added congestion by narrowing streets, by putting benches in the middle of the city—and this was the same mayor who talked about congestion when he was going to build a football stadium in the middle of the most congested part of the city," Silver said, according to several reports.
"They've now put park benches in the middle of Times Square, reduced Broadway traffic up and downtown from four lanes down to one or two, and lower Broadway down to one lane. So, he's created congestion just in these traffic patterns that have taken place."
The mayor’s plan, which included an $8 fee for entering Manhattan below 60th Street, was shot down in Albany in April of 2008. Silver and other critics called it a tax on the outer boroughs and said it would disproportionately hurt small businesses.
But Bloomberg appears hopeful that the legislature may view congestion pricing — which has been successfully enacted in London and Stockholm — more favorably in the face of the huge deficit at the MTA, along with a new report showing that residents of the Upper East Side and other neighborhoods are suffering from air pollution because of an excess of cars.