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Federal judge hears challenges to NYC’s fee for drivers into Manhattan

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Federal judge hears challenges to NYC’s fee for drivers into Manhattan
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Federal judge hears challenges to NYC’s fee for drivers into Manhattan

2024-05-18 06:25 Last Updated At:06:30

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s first-in-the-nation plan to levy a hefty toll on drivers entering much of traffic-choked Manhattan was the focus of a legal battle that played out in federal court Friday.

A Manhattan judge heard arguments in lawsuits brought by unionized public school teachers and other New Yorkers seeking to put the brakes on the plan set to launch June 30.

But U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Liman didn’t issue any decisions following the daylong hearing, where the central question was whether transportation officials have sufficiently thoroughly studied — and come up sufficient plans to address — the negative health and environmental effects of the toll.

Most drivers in private cars, locals and tourists alike, heading into Manhattan south of Central Park should expect to pay about $15 during the daytime, with higher tolls for larger vehicles and lower rates for motorcycles and late-night entries into the city, according to the proposal finalized in March. Those who aren’t enrolled in a regional toll collection program will pay $22.50.

Alan Klinger, a lawyer representing lower Manhattan residents, said the toll amounts to a “cash grab” by transit officials looking to pump billions of dollars into the region’s creaky subway, trains and buses.

“There’s a desperate need to put funds into mass transit, and that is their overriding issue,” he said.

Lawyers for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency overseeing the congestion fee plan, didn't dispute that the toll will provide a critical cash infusion of around $1 billion annually for the system, which carries about 4 million riders daily.

But they also argued that the toll will help reduce traffic and improve regional air quality by discouraging driving into Manhattan. The MTA also maintains it conducted extensive environmental reviews that found no significant effects to local communities that could not be addressed by focused mitigation efforts.

Klinger and other lawyers representing Manhattan residents argued Friday that the tolling scheme was given the green light by federal transportation officials without proper scrutiny.

Among other things, they noted that the Federal Highway Administration’s review was complete even before New York officials approved the toll’s final structure.

Toll opponents want the court to order transit officials to conduct a more comprehensive environmental study before rolling out the plan.

“This is supposed to be an all-encompassing process, and it has been anything but,” Klinger said.

Lawyers for the highway administration countered that New York transit officials had thoroughly analyzed the plan’s consequences and presented sufficient details for how they would address any harmful effects.

“None of these challenges have any merit,” said Zachary Bannon, a highway administration lawyer.

While the toll is expected to lead to an overall decline in traffic across greater New York City, some areas will see a “small degree” of increased congestion, acknowledged Elizabeth Knauer, an MTA lawyer.

The agency, she said, has committed to investing about $155 million over five years to offset those effects, including installing more roadside plants, parks, school air-filtration systems and more electric vehicle charging stations.

Other lawsuits argued Friday contend that low-income and minority communities already dealing with poor air quality will be particularly hard hit by the health effects of increased traffic through their streets.

They also argue drivers from other city boroughs and suburbs that lack adequate mass transit will take a disproportionate financial hit. Additionally, they claim, small businesses in the congestion zone will face higher operating costs and fewer customers.

“We have been clear that this current MTA plan moves pollution and congestion out of Manhattan and sends it into the other boroughs and neighborhoods already dealing with environmental hazards,” Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers that’s among the groups challenging the plan, said in a statement. “It is not fair, and we are asking the courts to tell the MTA to come up with a better plan.”

Many of the claims in Friday’s lawsuits echo arguments made last month during a two-day hearing in a New Jersey federal court, where New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich have each filed lawsuits.

Judge Leo Gordon, who is weighing those legal challenges, has said he plans to issue a written decision before the toll takes effect.

Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo.

FILE - Traffic is steady as vehicles approach Hugh Carey tunnel linking Brooklyn to Manhattan, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in New York. New York’s first-in-the-nation plan to levy a hefty toll on drivers entering much of traffic-choked Manhattan is the focus of a legal battle set to play out in federal court Friday, May 17. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

FILE - Traffic is steady as vehicles approach Hugh Carey tunnel linking Brooklyn to Manhattan, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in New York. New York’s first-in-the-nation plan to levy a hefty toll on drivers entering much of traffic-choked Manhattan is the focus of a legal battle set to play out in federal court Friday, May 17. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

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Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland's 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024

2024-06-20 09:28 Last Updated At:09:30

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — “Shaq” did it again.

At the age of 32 and having left top-flight European soccer behind to play in MLS, Xherdan Shaqiri is back on the international stage and back scoring again.

His stunning first-half strike secured a 1-1 draw for Switzerland against Scotland at Euro 2024 on Wednesday.

It is the sixth-straight major international tournament in which Shaqiri has scored, dating to the World Cup in 2014.

That’s three World Cups in a row and now three European Championships for the Chicago Fire forward. According to UEFA he is the first player to achieve that feat.

“He proved tonight that he lives and breathes for moments like these,” Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said.

Shaqiri rolled back the years with a first-time curling effort from about 20 meters out at Cologne Stadium.

Scotland led from the 13th minute when Scott McTominay’s shot took a wicked deflection off Fabian Schar to beat Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

But Shaqiri pounced on Anthony Ralston’s loose pass in the 26th to even the match with a left-footed shot into the top corner and past Scotland keeper Angus Gunn.

“If that chance falls to any other player in the Swiss team, it’s not a goal,” Scotland manager Steve Clarke said. “You knew when it was rolling towards Shaqiri it was destined for the back of the net. He’s a top, top player, so you don’t give top, top players that kind of chance.”

Shaqiri’s career has seen him play for some of Europe’s most iconic teams, including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Liverpool. He joined the Fire two years ago, but in that time has continued to produce for his country on the biggest stage.

“Shaq always gives everything in training,” Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji said. “I don’t know how many other players are able to score that goal.”

The draw leaves Switzerland on four points, second in Group A behind Germany and likely to advance to the round of 16.

Germany became the first nation to advance after a 2-0 win over Hungary earlier in the day.

Scotland’s hopes of making the knockout round depend on its final game against Hungary on Sunday and results elsewhere. No team has failed to advance from the group stage with four points.

Both teams had chances to win the game.

The Swiss should have taken the lead just before the hour mark when Dan Ndoye turned Kieran Tierney on the edge of the box. With just goalkeeper Angus Gunn to beat, Ndoye fired wide of goal.

Grant Hanley then headed against the post from a Scotland free kick and Switzerland’s Zeki Amdouni headed wide at the far post late on.

Scotland has never advanced beyond the group stage of a World Cup or Euros on 11 previous attempts.

But repeated disappointment doesn’t seem to dampen optimism among its fans, who filled Cologne’s square before the game.

Swiss supporters were out in numbers, too, creating a raucous atmosphere in the stadium.

It was certainly a more enjoyable evening for Scotland’s fans than the opening game of the Euros — a 5-1 loss to Germany.

“It was what we expected. It was a good reaction to a disappointing night. We’re still alive in the tournament,” Clarke said.

Goals from Jamal Musiala and İlkay Gündoğan made it two wins from two for host Germany after victory against Hungary and ensured there would be no repeat of its group stage exit from the 2022 World Cup.

Albania substitute Klaus Gjasula scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to hold World Cup semifinalist Croatia to a 2-2 draw in Group B. Gjasula’s own goal, just four minutes after entering the game in the second half, had looked like handing Croatia the win until his late strike.

James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, right, fouls Scotland's Billy Gilmour during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, right, fouls Scotland's Billy Gilmour during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Scotland's Che Adams reacts during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Scotland's Che Adams reacts during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri and team mates celebrate their side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri and team mates celebrate their side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn fails to save a shot by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn fails to save a shot by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri scores his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri scores his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn is unable to stop a shot for a goal by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn is unable to stop a shot for a goal by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates his side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates his side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

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