Assembly Democrats said Monday afternoon they were ready to move forward on congestion pricing, bringing a toll on vehicles in parts of Manhattan to help fund New York City transit repairs closer to reality.

The state Assembly previously didn't have enough votes to pass the toll, which would charge drivers a fee to enter Manhattan south of 61st Street, while a majority of Democrats supported the proposal in the state Senate.

But after a closed-door conference in which Assembly Democrats discussed at length the congestion pricing proposal that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled nearly a month ago, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie that lawmakers made progress and it appears that his Democrats have enough votes now.

"We're at the point where the Assembly members understand the need to fund the MTA," Heastie said. "We still have some details to work out but I would say the Assembly is ready to go forward on congestion pricing. I wouldn't say that if I didn't think I had the votes."

(The congestion pricing zone the governor and mayor proposed last month).

In essence, lawmakers are expected to vote to establish a commission, which would set the toll amount, allowing the state legislature to avoid having to vote for the tax themselves.


The date for a vote and details for the plan, such as tolling below 61st Street in Manhattan as well as potential carve outs for low-income people and some Manhattan residents, must still be worked out. Some lawmakers said they didn't want RFK Bridge drivers to taxed twice, for example.

According to Cuomo's congestion pricing plan, the toll amount would be announced "no later" than December 2020. The earliest the toll could be imposed would be 2021. Every member of the state legislature is up for re-election in 2020.

The tolls are intended to raise billions of dollars for much-needed work to modernize the city's subway and bus systems, while also discouraging vehicular traffic in the densest part of the nation's largest city. Similar tolls are in place in London, Singapore, and other international cities, but the much-debated idea has so far fallen flat in New York.

The FDR Drive, which runs on the eastern side of Manhattan, would be exempt from the tolls because of the number of motorists who use it to avoid central Manhattan, according to the Cuomo proposal. Emergency vehicles would also be exempt.

The mayor and governor also called for a major transformation of the MTA's structure, with a plan due by June of this year.

Congestion pricing proposals have died in the legislature in previous years, although Cuomo has publicly ramped up pressure on lawmakers in the past few months in an attempt to get them on board with his demands.

Many state lawmakers have demanded more details about Cuomo's congestion pricing demands this year, including the actual amount motorists can expect to pay. Cuomo wants lawmakers to approve the tolls as part of the state budget, which is due April 1. But state legislators representing New York City districts outside Manhattan have expressed concerns that their constituents will bear the brunt of the new tax.

But the MTA and especially the New York City subway system has hit what many believe to be a crisis point for updating and improving existing rail lines.

The amount of revenue congestion pricing would raise for the MTA depends on the toll amount, but the governor has admitted it wouldn't be enough to fund the full price tag, which is pegged at about $40 billion, for the full modernization and repair of New York City transit. As a result, the governor a few weeks ago tossed around the idea of a pied-a-terre tax to help fund transit repairs.

Supporters of the congestion pricing plan dismissed concerns from critics that it will place a new financial burden on the working- and middle-class.

"I think that those who are already paying $30 to $50 a day to stay in parking lots in Manhattan during the day are hardly going to notice congestion pricing," Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City said at a news conference.

"After years of crying to our legislators, it really feels like they are hearing us," said Rebecca Bailin of Riders Alliance, a transit advocacy group. "We've seen support from the Assembly now, the Senate, and the governor, so we really hope that by April 1 we have a full funding package to fix our subways."


Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.