Letters to the editor

This Toll Hike Is Just the Beginning

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December 6, 2020

Dear Letters Editor:
 
News that toll hikes have been approved for the New York Thruway and  Mario Cuomo Bridge should come as no surprise to anyone.  This will be the first of many toll hikes we will see in coming years.  Blaming lost revenues as a result of COVID-19 as the justification for toll hikes doesn’t tell the whole story.  Motorists and taxpayers have never been informed of the final outcome for the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction contractors lawsuit against the New York State Thruway Authority for $900 million in additional incurred costs for work not compensated.  This includes overtime for project schedule acceleration and change orders to the base contract for additional work.   What is the real relationship of the new toll hikes to cover these costs?   
 
Toll hikes are how Governor Andrew Cuomo always intended to find several billion to pay for construction. What was the final price tag for construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge?
 
The NYC Citizens Budget Commission previously reported that tolls on the new bridge will likely increase from $5.00 to $10.50 over time.   
 
Cuomo made a cold political calculation by promising not to raise the tolls when running for another term in 2018.  To pay back the $1.6 billion dollar Federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Improvement Act (TIFIA) loan and $1 billion Thruway Authority Bond, as well as up to $900 million in final payment to the contractor, tolls always had to go up sooner or later. The well respected Moody’s Investment Services estimated the tolls will go up to $7.60 by 2021 and $15 by 2026 for the Thruway Authority to be able to pay back the loan, bond and resolution for up to $900 million more in contractor final payment claims.
 

Cuomo will exit Albany leaving taxpayers and commuters paying higher fares, taxes and tolls in coming years for a final project cost closer to $5 billion than his promised $3.98 billion to cover the tab.

 
There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch or in this case, construction of a bridge.  At the end of the day, someone has to pay.
 
Sincerely,
 
Larry Penner
 
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Metro North Rail Road, Westchester Bee Line Bus along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)
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