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New York truckers sue over congestion pricing, alleging unfair burden

Craig Warga/New York Daily News/TNS

NEW YORK — Truck drivers filed suit in Manhattan federal court Thursday seeking an injunction to stop the MTA’s congestion pricing plan, arguing that the current tolling scheme is unconstitutional and unfair to truckers.

The suit, filed against the MTA by the Trucking Association of New York, argues that truck drivers would receive the most arduous tolls under the MTA’s plan and are among the least capable of using other transportation options.

“Our members are particularly aggrieved by the MTA’s tolling structure, which is why we felt it necessary to take today’s action,” TANY head Kendra Hems said Thursday.

Thursday’s suit differs from other legal challenges against congestion pricing in that it takes aim not at the federal government’s approval of the program, but at the program’s tolling structure approved by the MTA earlier this year.

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Under the plan — which is currently undergoing review by federal regulators ahead of an expected June 30th start to tolling — trucks and other large commercial vehicles will be charged each time they enter the congestion pricing zone.

Other vehicles, including passenger cars and small commercial vehicles, will only be charged once per day, no matter how many times they travel south of 61st St.

The base toll of $15 will scale up depending on the size of a vehicle. Commuter and school buses will be exempt. Overnight discounts and tunnel-crossing credits will apply to large trucks as well as other vehicles charged under the plan.

“Those [other] drivers, by and large, have options to take transit or alternative forms of transportation into the zone,” Hems said.

“The trucking industry, on the other hand, is being charged $24 to $36 — depending on the size of the truck — each and every single time they enter that zone,” she continued.

“They do not have a lot of control over the routes that they run every day, as that is dictated by their customers,” Hems added, calling the result “an undue burden” on her membership.

Truckers can’t hop on a commuter train or a subway to make their deliveries, the suit says.

“We would like MTA to return to the drawing board on the tolling structure and come up with a solution that is fair and equitable across all users entering into the zone,” Hems said.

Brian Carr, an attorney representing the truckers in their suit, argued Thursday that the MTA’s tolling structure “fails constitutional muster” because it would unfairly limit interstate commerce.

MTA brass declined to comment on the suit Thursday.

Congestion pricing faces three other lawsuits in Manhattan federal court, brought by city residents and the United Federation of Teachers. The state of New Jersey has also filed suit, and two suits have also originated in upstate counties.

In both the New Jersey and Manhattan suits, attorneys for the MTA have argued that any legal challenge to their tolling plan is premature, as the Federal Highway Administration has yet to give a final sign-off indicating the tolls do not significantly alter the government’s decision that congestion pricing will have no significant negative impact on the environment.

Any ruling ahead of that finding would preempt the federal agency’s work, MTA attorneys have said, and suits over the not yet fully final toll plan are not legally “ripe.”

However, the agency still plans to flip the proverbial switch on the tolling plan on June 30, and begin charging trucks, cars, and other motor vehicles traveling on surface streets in Midtown and lower Manhattan.