Governor Boasts of Accelerating the TPZ, Still Vague on Transit & How to Pay for It

Governor Cuomo discussed the Tappan Zee project in his cabinet meeting yesterday. He continues to maintain that the bridge will be designed to “support transit” saying the new bridge will “immediately support express bus service between Rockland and Westchester.” The bridge already carries the Tappan Zee “Express” buses, which get stuck in the same traffic as single-occupant vehicles on the bridge and along the corridor. Will the State dedicate lanes on the new bridge for buses or buses and HOV? That would be progress.

The Governor also laid out projected costs for building bus rapid transit and light rail connections to Rockland and Westchester. But is he or his staff actually getting serious about hammering out plans for these projects and ways to fund them with the County Executives? The Journal News recently reported that Rockland County Executive Vanderhoef  has already pitched a proposal to the NYS DOT Commissioner, Joan McDonald, whom the Journal News described as “non-committal.”

The Governor and NYS DOT could also demonstrate their commitment to making transit a reality by beginning the transit EIS in parallel with the bridge EIS.

In his cabinet meeting the Governor began to get more detailed about the financing options for the bridge, but it became clear that there are still enormous unknowns, including the price of future tolls.

The State has applied for a $2 billion federal loan that according to Bloomberg News, Cuomo said would be “secured by revenue collected statewide by the Thruway Authority, which totaled $660 million in 2011, including $130 million from the Tappan Zee, the loan application said. Other options include selling bonds-backed by tolls, and pension funds or other private investment”

The Governor went on to say “The main funding stream will be tolls.” According to transportation expert Charles Komanoff this could mean tolls as high as $16-30 coming to the Tappan Zee in the not too distant future.

Download the Governor’s Tappan Zee Bridge presentation (.ppt).

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