Boston has a traffic problem. New congestion-pricing bills aim to curb it

Lawmakers pushing to raise toll prices at peak travel times to ease traffic heading into Boston

BOSTON — Some Massachusetts lawmakers are pushing to raise toll prices at peak travel times as part of an effort to ease traffic heading into Boston.

While rush-hour traffic is part of the daily reality of living or working in Boston, two lawmakers have introduced bills to help ease some of the traffic that clogs neighborhood streets and idling cars, according to the Boston Herald.

The congestion-pricing bills, sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Boncore, D-Winthrop, the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation and Rep. Adrian Madaro, D-East Boston, aim to cut down on congestion in East Boston and give drivers a reason to use public transportation by raising the cost of peak travel.

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"It is the number one complaint I see in my office," Boncore said. "The timing is right that we need to start pricing the cost of driving in the Commonwealth."

Boncore and others are writing bills that would create congestion pricing at tunnel and bridge tolls, with fares that would increase during rush hour and lower during off-peak times.

"This is a policy that has worked well in places around the country and around the world," Chris Dempsey, director of Transportation for Massachusetts, said. "Greater Boston is one of the few cities that doesn’t use congestion pricing."

But not everyone is on board.

"It’s one of those things that it might seem like a good idea at the time and how is it actually going to work?" Boston native Evan James said. "Is it really gonna save congestion?"

Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a bill last year to start a congestion-pricing pilot program and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh enacted a panel last year that proposed fees for parking and driving in and out of downtown Boston which he then distanced himself from the idea after complaints from commuters about the proposed fees.

New York City started implementing congestion pricing a few months ago but it only penalizes for-hire cars, like taxis and ride-shares, when driving in most parts of Manhattan.

Boncore's bill is currently in the transportation committee, and there is no word on when it would be scheduled for a vote.