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Hudson Valley News

NYS Senator Unveils Plan To Keep New Bridge Toll Low

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WAMC, Allison Dunne
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A state senator from the Hudson Valley has unveiled a plan to keep tolls affordable on the current Tappan Zee Bridge and its replacement. The current toll is $5 cash.

State Senator David Carlucci is an Independent Democrat whose district includes the Rockland County side of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

“We have one of the nation’s largest infrastructure projects being built right behind us, right in the Hudson Valley,” says Carlucci. “And we can have a beautiful, shiny bridge, but if we can’t afford to cross it, it’ll be devastating to our economy here in the Hudson Valley.”

He stood on the banks of the Hudson River Tuesday in Nyack, with the bridge that connects Rockland and Westchester Counties in the background, to lay out a four-point plan he says needs to be addressed to lay the foundation to mitigate any toll increases, on both the current bridge and the replacement bridge, now under construction. The first is to tackle toll evasion.

“The governor has proposed that before, in last year’s budget. Unfortunately, it fell off the table. What we’ve done now is really recalibrated it to make it simple, just make that simple change, allow the Thruway Authority to work with the DMV [Division of Motor Vehicles] when there is a chronic toll evader, allow them to suspend someone’s vehicle registration,” says Carlucci. “And we’re not talking about someone that’s gone through an E-ZPass by accident once, twice or three times. We’re talking about a chronic toll evader where thousands of dollars of unpaid tolls have accumulated.”

He says the Tappan Zee loses about $5,000 a day from toll evaders. The second point of his plan is to establish a toll tax credit to serve as a personal income tax credit for Rockland and Westchester residents amounting to $250 for single filers and $500 for those filing jointly. Carlucci lays out points three and four.

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Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

“We need a resident discount for Rockland and Westchester residents. Right now the residents of Staten Island have a resident discount for the Verrazano Bridge for the same reason that we should have it here in Rockland and Westchester,” says Carlucci. “If people have to think twice about paying a toll to come over to Rockland or to Westchester, that could really devastate our economies. And the last point that is extremely important is that we get real about all the different Authorities here in New York State. We should merge the New York State Thruway Authority with the Bridge Authority.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo October 6 welcomed one of the world’s largest floating cranes to assist in the construction of the replacement Tappan Zee, known as the New NY Bridge. Within a few hours of the welcoming, Republican Westchester County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and Rockland County Executive Ed Day called on Cuomo to disclose project financing details and how much the toll will be, alleging rates will double or triple to finance the bridge. Cuomo said commuters should have to pay as little as possible, adding that he is not withholding the toll rates until after the November election because the information needed to determine a toll structure, such as the bridge’s actual cost and financing details, will not be available for at least several months. Carlucci backs Cuomo.

“So it would be premature to talk about what the toll is going be when we don’t have all the numbers together, but that’s why we need to make it a priority. We need to figure out what those tolls will be to start letting people know, but I’m going to fight tooth and nail any toll increase at all because we need to make sure that it’s affordable,” Carlucci says. “And we shouldn’t just be complacent and allow this to continue to happen that in the New York metropolitan area we’re forced to pay the highest tolls in the nation.”

Nyack Mayor Jen White has an idea to help transit among the river villages.

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Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne
Nyack Mayor Jen White

“I would love to see a ferry seriously explored because we’re looking at a bridge, a 100-year bridge, with the infrastructure for a train, but no plan for a train; the infrastructure for BRT, which sort of works Port Chester [Westchester] to Suffern [Rockland], but for those in the river villages I think a ferry is the perfect answer,” says White. “I don’t know where you would put it, but I think that putting a ferry on the waterfront, 40 minutes to Midtown, 10 minutes to Tarrytown, depending on what configuration, is an excellent solution to the transit problem.”

BRT stands for bus rapid transit. The northern span of the new NY bridge is scheduled to open in December 2016.  The bridge is scheduled to be completed and open on both spans in April 2018. Cuomo says the estimated $3.9 billion bridge is on time and on budget.

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