Bloomberg's Traffic Plan Hits Speed Bump

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg walks through the halls of the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., Monday, July 16, 2007. Bloomberg was in Albany to make an apparent last-ditch push for his toll plan to reduce traffic and pollution.
AP Photo/Mike Groll
Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Assembly Democrats continued trying to make a last-ditch deal on a congestion pricing plan for New York City on Tuesday even after Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his traffic toll plan was dealt a severe blow when lawmakers could not reach agreement by Monday night.

While the toll plan is in doubt, Bloomberg also vowed to keep trying to improve the city's traffic flow and air quality.

"I don't know if it's dead or alive," he said Tuesday when asked about his plan. "Although we continue to talk to the Legislature and the governor, it's sad to note that after three months of working with all parties to address their questions, the failure of the state Assembly to act in time on a deadline imposed by the federal government is a terrible setback for clean air and to our critical commitment to fight climate change," Bloomberg said in a statement.

"I can't ascribe motives to the lack of action in Albany, but I can definitively say the environment and the future quality of life in New York took a beating," he said.

Also on Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno declared Bloomberg's proposal dead and blamed the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

"Governor Spitzer chose not to exercise his leadership to encourage Senate Democrats to back this plan or compel the Assembly to return to Albany," Bruno, a Republican, said. "In the end, the governor's inability to bring people together has doomed this measure and cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars to improve mass transit."

Bloomberg's plan to reduce traffic in Manhattan was part of a wide-ranging package of environmental proposals that has won him national attention at a time when he is said to be contemplating a presidential bid. He vowed on Tuesday that his administration would go ahead with its other proposals.

While Bloomberg was conceding defeat, a new proposal negotiated by state leaders early Tuesday was still in play.

Spitzer spokeswoman Christine Anderson said that as of midmorning there was still hope for a deal and a spokesman for the Assembly wasn't confirming that congestion pricing was dead.

It wasn't clear if the proposal, even if it is approved this week in the Legislature, would be enough to qualify for a federal pilot program and as much as $500 million in federal funds to implement it.

No details of the new proposal, struck after 2 a.m. Tuesday, were released. There was no comment from Spitzer or Silver late Tuesday morning.

Bloomberg lobbied hard in Albany on Monday for his ambitious toll plan to clear Manhattan traffic congestion, but his efforts failed to get necessary legislative approval.

The mayor said his measure would reduce Manhattan's traffic gridlock while cleaning the air for kids and reducing greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Bloomberg's plan includes an $8 toll for cars and a $21 toll for trucks to enter Manhattan's most heavily traveled business district during workdays, with the money going to transportation improvements.