A proposal to charge drivers extra tolls to enter New York City's most congested neighborhoods during peak hours died in the New York Assembly Monday.

The Associated Press reported the plan died when the Assembly Speaker announced his chamber would not take up the proposal because of strong opposition within the conference dominated by New York City Democrats.

The "congestion pricing" proposal, backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would have charged trucks $21 to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Cars would have paid $8. City officials said the plan would reduce traffic by an estimated 6 percent, and proceeds would have gone for mass transport projects.

The proposal was closely watched, and its demise was reported around the world.

Mayor Bloomberg lashed out at the Assembly in a statement, saying, "It takes a special type of cowardice for elected officials to refuse to stand up and vote their conscience- on an issue that has been debated, and amended significantly to resolve many outstanding issues, for more than a year."

The American Trucking Associations, on the other hand, applauded the death of the plan.

"Like many areas of the United States, New York's transportation networks are strained, and the city is searching for a solution to its problem," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "But congestion pricing schemes are unfair, ineffective and ignore our real transportation needs. While there is a need to heavily invest in infrastructure, congestion pricing does little to relieve congestion and is merely a revenue raiser."

ATA's concerns with the New York City plan included the following:
· Truck drivers cannot change delivery times, which are set by the shipper and the receiver.
· Workers entering the city cannot change their shift times.
· The plan did not increase road capacity for use by all vehicles.
· Charging an additional fee for trucks that have already paid for the highway with fuel taxes and other federal and state taxes is unfair.
· Such plans usually increase congestion and parking problems in nearby areas.
· Congestion pricing fees on trucks ultimately result in an increase in costs to businesses and consumers.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters called the announcement "deeply disappointing. "New York's mounting traffic and environmental woes point to congestion pricing as an inevitable solution, even if not in the next few months or with the assistance of federal Urban Partnership dollars."

The decision means the state will lose out on $354 million in federal money for the program. The U.S. Department of Transportation, under its "Congestion Initiative," is setting up Urban Partnership Agreements (http://www.upa.dot.gov/) with model cities that have committed to, among other things, "broad congestion pricing." Other cities that were selected as the five urban partners were Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Francisco and Seattle. Now that New York City has been effectively removed from the program, Peters said, "we will engage with many of the largest cities in the United States that have put forward ambitious traffic fighting plans to discuss how they could use this money to cut traffic, improve transit and reduce pollution."