Cuomo To NYC Toll Reform Advocates: Drop Dead

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo isn't getting behind a new push to change the city's tolling system. At least for now.

The new plan, which is supported by The Regional Plan Association and other transportation advocacy groups, would lower tolls around the city while ending decades of free driving across the East River Bridges.

It's a variation on Mayor Bloomberg's failed congestion pricing plan of five years ago. The new plan, called "fair pricing," would reduce tolls by as much as $2.50 on most city bridges and tunnels -- the toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge would drop by about $5-dollars -- while adding a a $5.33 E-Z Pass Toll to the East River Bridges. It would also cost about five dollars to drive south of 60th Street in Manhattan during peak hours.

The plan's supporters say the move will raise money for transit and road repair, and end traffic jams at the free crossings. But Governor Cuomo's not buying it. "It's a proposal that's been brought up almost every year for the past several years," he told reporters on Tuesday. "It hasn't passed in the past and I don't believe it will pass now."

Traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, an architect of the new plan, said Cuomo would be right if the idea consisted solely of adding tolls to the East River Bridges. "But this plan does more than that, it brings fairness to New York drivers by lowering tolls in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island," he said. He shrugged off the governor's reaction by pointing out that the plan's backers will be holding months' worth of public forums to build momentum for the reform, and that it might be a year before Cuomo and other officials are asked to act on revising the toll structure.

Schwartz and other transit advocates keep reviving the proposal as a way to create a dedicated revenue stream for the MTA's capital construction program, which has largely been funded in recent years by the taking on of massive debt.

Less than two weeks ago, Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have prohibited shifting funds marked for public transportation to other purposes except in times of fiscal emergency. Even as a candidate for governor in 2010, Cuomo rejected the concept of congestion pricing and resisted the idea that new revenue be raised to pay for MTA projects.

Any change to the city's tolling would have to win approval in Albany.