Truckers Sue to Block Congestion Fee for Manhattan Drivers

The lawsuit is one of at least eight seeking to block the plan.

Traffic traverses 42nd Street near Grand Central Terminal, New York, Jan. 11, 2018.
Traffic traverses 42nd Street near Grand Central Terminal, New York, Jan. 11, 2018.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

NEW YORK (AP) — Add truckers to the list of opponents seeking to block New York's first-in-the-nation congestion fee for driving into Manhattan.

The Trucking Association of New York filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which developed the toll scheme, arguing the higher fees unfairly and unconstitutionally target the trucking industry. The trucking association's lawsuit is among at least eight seeking to block the congestion fee plan, which is slated to launch June 30.

Under the transit authority's plan, trucks would be subject to a charge of $24 or $36 per trip, depending on their size. Most drivers in private passenger cars, in contrast, should expect to pay about $15, with lower rates for motorcycles and late-night entries into the city, according to the proposal finalized in March.

Kendra Hems, the trucking association's president, said the industry will have no choice but to shoulder the increased costs, as truck operators don't have flexibility on their driving routes or schedules, which are generally set by the businesses they serve.

That, she said, will only lead to price increases on countless goods, as the trucking industry moves nearly 90% of products in New York City.

"As any responsible business does, we deliver when our customers ask us to deliver, which is during prime business hours," said Joe Fitzpatrick, founder of Lightning Express Delivery Service and a member of the trucking association's board. "That will not change now, but what will change is higher costs for New Yorkers as a result."

The association suggests that the transit authority revise its plan to exempt the industry from the fee, limit trucks to being tolled just once a day or toll them at the same rate as passenger vehicles.

A spokesperson for the MTA declined to comment on the suit Thursday.

A Manhattan federal court judge earlier this month heard arguments in lawsuits brought by unionized public school teachers, politicians and other New Yorkers.

In New Jersey, a federal court judge has also heard arguments in legal challenges brought by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and others.

Many of those lawsuits argue the tolling scheme was approved by federal transportation officials without proper scrutiny and the court should order transit officials to conduct a more comprehensive environmental study before rolling out the plan.

Both judges have not yet ruled in the cases.

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