| by Rick Pezzullo |
The two leaders of the counties that are separated by the Tappan Zee Bridge have proposed a plan to partially fund the new Hudson River span.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Rockland County Executive Ed Day sent a joint letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo in late December suggesting the state use a bulk of the approximately $5 billion it received in settlements over economic and tax improprieties to pay for a portion of the construction of the $3.9 billion project.
“Our idea is to use a portion of the state’s bank settlement money to fund bridge construction will keep the economic wheels moving in both Rockland and Westchester counties,” Day remarked. “Our commuters and businesses simply cannot afford the burden of even higher tolls.”
More than 138,000 vehicles cross the Tappan Zee Bridge daily, making it the third most traveled crossing in New York State behind only the George Washington and Verrazano Narrows bridges.
Astorino maintained tolls could skyrocket if the state doesn’t dip into the bank settlement funds.
“The money is right there. We just need the governor to resist the temptation to spread the wealth to special interests and recurring expenses,” Astorino said. “With infrastructure investments everyone benefits.”
The first span of the new twin-span bridge is scheduled to open in 2016, and it’s scheduled to be completed in 2018. The new bridge will be designed and constructed to last 100 years without major structural maintenance.
In June, Cuomo announced that the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. (EFC) would provide up to $511.45 million in low-cost loans to the New York State Thruway Authority for environmental protection and Hudson River restoration projects related to the New NY Bridge project to replace the Tappan Zee. Along with the $1.6 billion Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan last year from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Cuomo said the EFC loans would help keep tolls on the new bridge as low as possible. The current toll is $5.
“The governor’s objective is to protect toll payers and avoid or limit any toll increases to the greatest extent possible,” said Dani Lever, a spokesperson for Cuomo. “We continue to pursue every potential financing option to achieve this goal.”