Documents released by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority show a network of 40-foot “mast arms” on light poles as one potential solution for the new tolling infrastructure within the congestion pricing zone.
(TNS) — These aren’t like the cash toll booths once common on New York highways — and they won’t even look like the up-to-date toll gantries on the Thruway and MTA Bridges.
New York’s congestion pricing toll readers likely will be hung on existing light poles in Manhattan, MTA documents obtained by the Daily News show.
Transit officials are considering installing a network of 40-foot “mast arms” on light poles along the edge of the congestion pricing zone, which covers all of Manhattan south of 61st St., the documents show.
Renderings of the mast arms issued by the MTA’s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority are merely conceptual. They were distributed to prospective contractors as a jumping off point as a part of the agency’s request for proposals for the toll collection system.
Still, they offer the first glimpse into the equipment that will be used to track and toll cars in the congestion pricing system.
A contractor could come back with a revolutionary new technology that is wildly different from what the TBTA has already published.
The concept sent to vendors would place mast arms above both southbound and northbound streets between 60th and 61st Sts. on either side of Central Park, and along 59th St. just south of the park.
The arms would also be installed above inbound and outbound roads adjacent to the East River bridges, and ramps leading to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
The concept presented by the TBTA would let the agency track vehicles entering and exiting the zone. That’s a good idea “if you really want a robust time-of-day pricing,” said transportation consultant Bruce Schaller, who has been studying congestion pricing models for more than a decade.
Time-of-day pricing would let the MTA lower the congestion rate on nights and weekends, and raise it during weekdays.
But the cost of the extra equipment needed to track movement in and out of the zone would mean higher toll rates, Schaller said.
State law requires the congestion scheme to raise enough money to pump $15 billion into the MTA’s next five-year capital plan. That means if the cost of installation and operation goes up, so will the toll price.
The due date for proposals from contractors was Friday, and a winner will be selected by Sept. 13, according to the TBTA’s documents.
The agency has required contractors to avoid placing new poles on city sidewalks by installing tolling equipment onto existing Department of Transportation infrastructure whenever possible.
Some of that infrastructure could be installed on decorative light poles like those on Central Park South. State law exempts congestion pricing equipment from local requirements surrounding historical preservation.
But the idea is to keep the equipment as unobtrusive as possible.
“We’ve notified bidders that traditional toll gantries won’t be accepted as part of this program. Proposals need to take into account character of neighborhoods, and they should prioritize using existing infrastructure wherever possible,” said MTA spokesman Max Young.
“Ultimately, we are seeking to build a system that will blend in with its surroundings, not substantially alter the streetscape, and minimize disruptions of all kinds.”
The new tolls won’t take effect any earlier than the start of 2021. The cost of the tolls are not allowed to be set until Nov. 15, 2020, a week after the next general election.
©2019 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.