Gov. Phil Murphy called the agreement with New York “conceptual” for now, though he sees it as a win for New Jersey commuters — even though the plans to implement congestion pricing are far from being hashed out.
The agreement was brokered with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo late last week. Murphy decided he’d unveil the plans on Wednesday in Bergen County, because he says they’re the residents who would be carrying most of the burden if carveouts don’t happen.
Lawmakers have been lobbying hard for exemptions because they say Jersey drivers are getting all the pain — paying more in tolls that have surged quite a bit over the last several years to get into Manhattan — but none of the benefit.
“This understanding means that New Jersey commuters will be treated equally at all Hudson River crossings — the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and the George Washington Bridge — and New Jersey will also have a seat at the table as the plan moves forward. And as we ensure equal treatment for our commuters, we will pursue the conversion, and this is important, to cashless tolling at the Port Authority-controlled crossings. This not only will make delivering the credits to New Jersey drivers possible, but it will also relieve congestion at the toll plazas, especially on the George Washington Bridge,” said Murphy.
“It’s a fairly straightforward point, but the Lincoln and the Holland already go into the zone itself, so getting that electronic tolling technology in place is less urgent, although it does relieve congestion. It’s much more urgent in the George Washington, because you’ve got to keep track of people, including those who might not have EZ Pass, including those who keep driving to Connecticut. So you’ve got to be able to have that record in order to make the system work,” Murphy added.
New York leaders say the money is needed to help fund $15 billion in debt for the MTA’s Capital Program. The governor said Wednesday that it’s unclear if tolls will rise to help offset the exceptions, though he doesn’t expect that to happen.
It’s also unlikely New Jersey will get any portion of the cash that’s being raised — something that lawmakers pushed for in the debate.
The conversation quickly turned to the other big news — the resignation of the Schools Developmental Authority CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco, effective Friday. She handed in her resignation letter to Murphy on Tuesday.
She’s stepping down from the position amid allegations of nepotism and mishandling restructuring at the authority. NJTV News asked the governor about it and he had little to say about who asked her to step down or when. We also questioned him about her resignation as the vice chair of the Democratic State Committee.
“Lizette tended her resignation. I’ve got no comment or context on timing. I appreciate the work that she did, and we are looking forward, I think sooner than later, in appointing an interim director and turning the page and doing the work that the SDA is so needed to do in this state,” Murphy said.
“She’s been at that for many years and she did a really good job there. She has stepped down. Peg Schaffer is going to step up and serve as vice chair with my complete support. So in addition to thanking Lizette and continuing to have complete confidence in chairman Curry …” he added.
Meanwhile, Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement Wednesday that Delgado-Polanco’s resignation was “needed,” adding that her departure would allow for a clear review of what’s been taking place at the SDA.
An interim CEO appointment at the SDA is expected soon.