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Group Says NYC Wouldn't Need State Approval To Impose Congestion Pricing For Midtown

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The City Council once again heard a proposal for congestion pricing.

The transportation advocacy group Move NY on Monday asked the City Council to impose a $2.75 toll for cars driving into Midtown Manhattan south of 60th Street.

Ten years ago, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $8 proposal failed in Albany.

Move NY's Alex Matthiessen says their new proposal would be the price of a single subway ride.

"So I think that's an equitable way of doing it where we can ask everybody to pay their fair share to travel into the central business district," Matthiessen said, adding that a little known law would allow this city to impose this toll on its own.

At the hearing Monday, city Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was asked again and again whether City Hall would support the congestion pricing plan. As WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported, Trottenberg said she would not.

"Again, legal experts have looked at it in this administration and past administrations and firmly believe the authority lies with the state," she said.

But NYU law professor Roderick Hills insisted the city has the authority to impose the charge.

Legal experts have discovered a 1957 state law that allows any city with more than 1 million people to impose their own tolls, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reports, Mayor de Blasio says he can clear the streets with issuing additional tickets.

"I want to ticket those who are blocking traffic on a prolonged basis," the mayor said. "I want to ticket people who block the box and of course have another option just like I want to ticket people who speed near a school or who fail to yield to a pedestrian.

The new plan is based on the argument that the city can toll its own roads without approval from the state government, which has killed all previous congestion pricing plans.

"I'm very clear the only way congestion pricing can be considered is through Albany, that's been determined by the law department," de Blasio said Monday. "I'm not putting time and energy into something that's not going to happen."

Drivers didn't seem thrilled about the idea.

"Because it costs enough money to do business as it is in this city with parking and tolls going up," one driver said.

"Price of everything is expensive, so I think that's ridiculous," another driver said.

"It's not a good idea -- more money, less profit," another driver said.

One cab driver said a Midtown toll would be "the last straw."

Move NY anticipates the toll would raise $1 billion a year for road and bridge repair, and discounted MetroCards for low income New Yorkers.

As 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported, the mayor said despite claims to the contrary, Albany would not go anywhere near congestion pricing.

"If light rail proves to a strong option, that's also substantially easier to build than a subway," de Blasio said.

For those who block the box, a crackdown might be on the way, and just try getting near a Manhattan parade.

"Like Thanksgiving Parade, St. Patrick's Parade, or if it is a strategically sensitive parade like the Salute To Israel Parade, we will not be allowing traffic to cross those parades any longer," he said.

With streets teeming with cars and trucks, the city is considering other steps to make the streets more efficient, including restricting deliveries to one side of the street, encouraging night deliveries, changing parking meter rates, and increasing penalties for congestion causing violations.

NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan told City Council about the need for increased ticketing.

"Parking summons enforcement is not performed only for its own sake but to enhance the safety and improve the flow of traffic," Chan said.

CBS2 reports the mayor says the city is also looking at better bus routes, more ferries, and light rail trains to help ease congestion.

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