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MTA Plans To Widen Parts Of Belt Parkway While Mayor De Blasio Pushes For Congestion Pricing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) --The MTA's plan to widen parts of the Belt Parkway is drawing criticism as Mayor Bill de Blasio pushes for congestion pricing.

The mayor says the city's recovery depends on commuters going back to mass transit, but while City Hall is trying to deter people from driving, transit advocates argue the MTA's plan to add a lane of traffic to the Belt Parkway would only attract more cars to the road.

Traffic is no treat on the Belt Parkway.

"The traffic business over here is horrible," driver Dominic Volee, of Mill Basin, said.

One trouble spot is where two lanes coming off the Verrazzano Bridge merge into the parkway's three lanes.

"There is a tremendous bottleneck there really every day," said Susan Weiss, of Bay Ridge.

"It's a quick merge when you're coming off the bridge, which causes delays," said Daniel DeCrescenzo, president of MTA's Bridges and Tunnels.

DeCrescenzo says the transit agency plans to add a fourth lane there for a two-mile stretch in order to relieve congestion. Construction is expected to start by 2023 and cost up to $30 million.

"Whatever they do is gonna be an improvement," Volee said.

But not all drivers or bikers are convinced widening the road would help at all.

"It won't help," one driver said.

"No one wants to suffer with the traffic, with the work for the year or whatever it takes," one man said.

"Now there's another lane. It'll open up, and then the traffic will still just build up anyway," one woman said.

"You don't want more congestion," another man said.

Transit advocates are accusing the MTA of misplaced priorities.

"When you make it easier for people to drive, then more people will drive," said Liam Blank, with the Tristate Transportation Campaign.

Even though the plan was proposed pre-pandemic, now, de Blasio is pushing to implement congestion pricing, which was delayed due to COVID.

To show his urgency, the mayor on Thursday nominated city finance commissioner Sherif Soliman to serve on the Traffic Mobility Review Board.

"We've got to get people out of the cars. Again, the solution, get people back to mass transit, make mass transit better," de Blasio said.

"Is this just encouraging drivers to not go on public transportation and to drive instead?" CBS2's Ali Bauman asked DeCrescenzo.

"No, I dont think so at all," he said. "If people know that they're safe and they're taking their vehicles, Bridges and Tunnels supports mass transit with the revenue we collect from our tolls, so we're using that toll money to correct any situation, to make sure people are as safe as possible."

The MTA Bridges and Tunnels president also said he believes the expansion would help relieve traffic on local roads and the Verrazzano Bridge itself.

If the road work goes as planned, it should take about two years to complete.

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