Long Island official backs congestion pricing

The issue is traffic in Manhattan. The government's possible solution is congestion pricing—charging drivers $11.52 in fees to drive south of 60th Street during peak traffic times.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is one of the 16 people on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Fix New York City panel that made the recommendation. Bellone said the solution makes sense. The proposal could raise up to $1.5 billion a year to help fund the antiquated subway system.

"I think this is the best approach that I have seen on how we address the huge problem of massive traffic congestion that is choking our economy and causing residents to be in traffic nightmares," Bellone said.

But residents say paying up to $2,700 in fees each year to drive would be a nightmare. It is hard to imagine relying on the already overcrowded and underperforming Long Island Rail Road.

Bellone said that transportation improvements are critical and it is only a matter of time until much-needed updates make a difference in how people choose to travel.

"You have double track. You have third track. That is going to, when you combine it with East Side access, significantly reduce commuting times, increase reverse commuting, which is going to help our economy out here and really for the first time promote intra-island commuting, which we've never been able to do before," Bellone said.

But how do you explain to Suffolk County residents that driving into Manhattan will cost them $2,700?

"You have to look at what people are spending now, you have to look at what are the costs associated with the massive traffic congestion that they're paying," Bellone said, "and you have to say we're investing in the entire system to give people the most amount of options."

The state Legislature has until June to review the report and work with the governor to make recommendations.