March 24, 2008
The Honorable Robert K. Sweeney
New York State Assembly
270-B North Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, NY 11757
Dear Assembly Member Sweeney:
On behalf of the New York Building Congress, I am writing to encourage your support for the congestion pricing plan recommended by the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission on January 31.
The Commission’s plan would produce enormous, far-reaching benefits for all New Yorkers, not least of which is an estimated seven percent reduction in traffic. By reducing the number of vehicles on the road, congestion pricing will ensure faster, more reliable commute times, increase economic activity and job productivity and decrease fuel consumption and harmful vehicle emissions, improving air quality and the public health. You can help deliver these benefits to New York by approving congestion pricing.
But the Commission’s congestion pricing plan offers even more. It will also deliver short and long-term improved mass transit options for commuters and create a predictable and dedicated flow of revenue for vital capital projects, like the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access and the Lower Manhattan Rail Link. Never has that revenue been needed more.
New York City’s transportation infrastructure already strains under existing demand and, with its population projected to reach nine million by the year 2030, the City must have the infrastructure in place to support that growth. However, mass transit improvements and expansion will cost billions of dollars, with alternative funding sources scarce, insufficient and uncertain.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) proposed 2008-2013 Capital Plan, released in late February, clearly demonstrates the urgent need to implement a congestion pricing program that would serve as a dedicated source of funding. The $29.5 billion proposal would cover the MTA’s system maintenance and improvement program, complete ongoing expansion projects and pursue further capacity expansion.
Two-thirds of the money required to fund the Plan would be devoted to the MTA’s core needs, including state of good repair, normal replacement and system improvement. In other words, $20 billion of capital spending is the minimum required over the next five years to maintain the system as it is today.
The remaining $9.5 billion in the Plan would allow the MTA to complete such critical expansion projects as East Side Access, the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, Fulton Street Transit Center and the South Ferry Subway system.
Funding the Capital Plan is an essential and challenging task. The MTA identifies approximately $20 billion in potential funding sources, which includes $4.5 billion from congestion pricing proceeds. Absent this contribution, the MTA would have inadequate funds to maintain the system as it exists today and would be close to $14 billion short of the funding required to accommodate anticipated growth in ridership. The importance of congestion pricing as part of a larger strategy for achieving a more balanced and well-financed, long-range capital program could not be more obvious.
With major cities in the global economy, like London and Shanghai, substantially investing in their infrastructure, New York must keep pace to ensure its long-term economic growth and prosperity. If the 90 tunnel-boring machines currently at work in Shanghai is any measure, New York, with its four-tunnel boring machines at work, is lagging woefully behind. By approving congestion pricing, you can help New York stay competitive with other world cities.
Certainly, congestion pricing has been one of the most hotly-contested policy issues in recent memory. But leadership requires vision and courage. As one of New York’s leaders, you have an opportunity to demonstrate both and usher in a new wave of investment for New York’s future. If approved by March 31, congestion pricing promises $354 million in federal funding to help implement the new program. The Building Congress looks to you to seize this golden opportunity and vote for congestion pricing.
Richard T. Anderson