(The Center Square) — While New Jersey officials are seeing red over the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new congestion pricing plan, the state is still getting plenty of green from the regional transit agency.
According to Reinvent Albany, a non-partisan watchdog group, in a new report, from 2014 to 2022, the MTA paid New Jersey companies an estimated $3.3 billion for goods and services for construction projects and other purposes.
That’s well below the estimated $26 billion the MTA spent in New York state during that time, but more than 70% more than what it spent in other states, according to the report.
The watchdog group points out that the congestion pricing plan is expected to raise revenue for MTA’s five-year capital plan by $15 billion, which means New Jersey businesses stand to get another $1.5 billion in contracts from the transit agency.
“The MTA is a major job creator and contributor to the region’s economy, and it is clear that New Jersey businesses are big players in MTA contracting,” Rachael Fauss, the group’s senior policy advisor and author of the report, said in a statement.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-NY and Frank Pallone, D-NY, have ripped the MTA’s plan as a “cash grab” that will hurt commuters from their state.
But the watchdog group points out that the MTA spent hundreds of millions of dollars in their congressional districts during the years covered by the study.
Companies based in New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District — represented by Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrel, a vocal critic of the congestion pricing plan — received more than $1 billion in funding from the MTA during the eight-year period, according to the report.
“This underscores the vital role that the MTA plays in supporting businesses and fostering economic growth beyond New York’s borders and across the tri-state region,” said Renae Reynolds, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group that supports the MTA’s pricing plan.
Under the congestion pricing plan, which the federal government gave the green light earlier this week, the MTA will be authorized to charge some motorists a fee ranging from $9 to $23 to drive into Manhattan’s central business district.
New York officials say the new fee will bring in about $1 billion annually that the agency will use as leverage to borrow more money for its $51 billion multi-year capital plan. The transit agency faces a potential $2.6 billion budget deficit in 2025 and is seeking more state funding to help reduce its projected shortfalls.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have defended the plan, approved by the state Legislature in 2019, saying it will help reduce the region’s traffic congestion and blunt the impact of climate change by reducing tailpipe pollution.
But New Jersey leaders, including Gov. Phil Murphy, have blasted the MTA and the Biden administration for moving ahead with the plans without conducting additional environmental and economic reviews.
— Christian Wade