New Jersey Challenges N.Y.C. Congestion Pricing in Federal Court

New York City’s congestion pricing program is facing its first legal test on Wednesday as lawyers for the State of New Jersey head to federal court in Newark to challenge the new tolls.

New Jersey’s governor, Philip D. Murphy, and other state officials are suing the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, an agency within that department, for allowing the program to move forward.

They claim that federal transportation officials failed to fully address the program’s environmental and financial effects on some New Jersey communities, which could see more traffic and pollution when commuting patterns change as drivers avoid the tolls, according to court filings.

“It isn’t about whether you like or don’t like congestion pricing,” Randy M. Mastro, a lawyer for the State of New Jersey, said during his opening remarks in the courtroom. The issue, he said, was whether the Federal Highway Administration “took a hard look” at the potential environmental effects.

The New Jersey lawsuit is widely seen as the most serious challenge to the tolling program, which is expected to begin charging drivers in mid-June, and could potentially block or upend it at the last minute. State officials are seeking a more comprehensive environmental study of the program, which would delay it. Wednesday is the first day of a two-day hearing that has been scheduled on the case before Judge Leo M. Gordon, who is expected to make a decision before the tolls start in just over two months.

Most passenger cars will be charged $15 a day to enter a designated congestion zone in Manhattan at 60th Street and below during peak hours, while commercial trucks will be charged $24 or $36 during those times, depending on their size. The program is expected to reduce traffic in the city’s central business district and raise $1 billion annually for improvements to New York’s mass transit system.

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