The latest step in the Governor Cuomo’s march toward building a new Tappan Zee Bridge was taken yesterday when the New York State Thruway Authority’s Board of Directors accepted Tappan Zee Constructor’s $3.1 billion bid to replace the existing transit-less span with two new, wider transit-less spans. When accounting for additional costs that include project financing and management, the total bill comes to $4 billion. The State will borrow money through bond issuances to pay for the project and repay those loans with tolls. According to transportation economist Charles Komanoff, the cost to ride across the bridge could rise to an average of $11 as a result.
Prior to the announcement of the final bridge design, the Thruway Authority killed its proposal to increase commercial truck tolls by a hefty 45 percent. To make up for this lost toll revenue – found to be necessary for meeting the Authority’s funding requirements by the State’s consultants – the Authority will implement a host of cost cutting and cost-sharing measures. These measures include no longer paying for State Trooper services – a $60 million per year cost – and having other agencies assume the State’s canal system responsibilities.
The concern with the latter announcement is whether a state with a projected budget deficit of $982 million in 2013, and hoping to obtain federal funds to pay for damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, can pay for these new obligations. One area where transit advocates worry the State will find the funding is by redirecting dedicated transit funding or shortchanging other transportation projects throughout the state. Indeed, if Hurricane Sandy has taught us anything, it is that the region’s transit systems are already underfunded and in dire need of maintenance and upgrades and that the transportation infrastructure needs of the state are exorbitantly more than what we can afford.