Today, just hours after New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) approval made the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement plan eligible for federal funding, Governor Cuomo signed a letter [pdf] that kicked off the state’s application process for federal low-interest TIFIA financing.
Apart from vague plans for a toll hike, the TIFIA announcement is the most detailed information yet that New Yorkers have received about how the state plans to pay for the new bridge.
Foreshadowing the TIFIA application, Tri-State Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool spoke at this morning’s NYMTC meeting about the project’s murky finances, and their potential impact on the state’s chances of winning competitive grants and loans (like TIFIA).
“You want it to be the best project so it will receive federal funds. How can it be the best project if the finances are so shaky?” said Vanterpool.
The Monday morning vote was only announced last Friday afternoon, giving the public less than 72 hours’ notice of the event. The clean water advocate Riverkeeper issued a press release on Friday evening that took issue with the short notice, as well as the Tappan Zee Bridge project’s brief, unclear financial plan:
Friday afternoon meeting notices and cursory one-page financing plans are simply not acceptable, in support of a $5.2 billion public works project. Nor do they square with the state’s recent promises of transparency and public inclusiveness. This meeting should not go forward.
In coming weeks, project stakeholders—especially NYMTC members—must work to bring clarity to the state’s financial and transit plans. Without a better picture of how the state plans to pay for the bridge and incorporate the recommendations of the Regional Transit Task Force, this TIFIA application could go the way of the last one.