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Lawmakers Demand Federal Review Of Congestion Pricing's Impact On Commuters From New Jersey

FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- There's a last-ditch attempt to pump the brakes on congestion pricing in Manhattan.

Lawmakers in New Jersey say it's nothing more than a tax on already struggling commuters, CBS2's Kevin Rincon reported Friday.

Last week, after years of roadblocks, the Biden administration gave New York the green light to start charging drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street.

Officials on the other side of the Hudson River want the administration to reconsider.

In Fort Lee, tens of thousands of cars drive on the George Washington Bridge and into the city. Many are commuters who live in New Jersey.

For them, congestion pricing means more money out of pocket.

"This is an extra tax on our drivers. That's exactly how we're going to look at it," said U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D).

Pascrell said the cost of driving south of 60th Street will be about $11-$14.

"That's equivalent, on average, of a new tax of up to $3,000 on every New Jersey commuter, in addition to the nearly $4,000 they already pay every year to cross the bridge," said U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D). "It's some sort of sick joke to do this to families in the middle of a pandemic."

Both congressmen sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, asking him to take a second look at the plan.

"So, this is a decision for the different parties that are all involved in that. Our responsibility, mostly has to do with the environmental assessment process that goes on. We're certainly very interested to see that process unfold," Buttigieg said when asked about the congestion pricing plan during a White House news conference. "But, obviously there's a real challenge with congestion there and a real revenue opportunity, as well."

The MTA is on board with congestion pricing, given the revenue it would generate.

"There's going to be improved traffic, improved quality of life, improved quality of air. For anyone in New Jersey who's particularly concerned about the possibility of tolls going up, they can also ride New Jersey Transit," said Interim NYC Transit Pres. Sarah Feinberg.

The argument from lawmakers is that public transit isn't an option for everyone. Not to mention, New Jersey commuters would be funding a transit agency that doesn't serve them.

"Jersey commuters shouldn't be responsible for bailing out the MTA for their mismanagement, their failings, and they want us to stand in and bail them out. I don't think so," Gottheimer said.

"This proposed congestion pricing scheme is a bridge too far. New Jersey must get a say in the matter," said Pascrell.

The lawmakers said, if the plan does move forward, there should be an exemption for New Jersey drivers or a federal tax break they can take advantage of at the end of the year.

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