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Hudson Valley News

County Execs Propose Partial Funding Plan For The New NY Bridge

Courtesy of the Westchester and Rockland County Executives' office

The county executives on each side of the Tappan Zee Bridge are proposing a partial financing plan for the replacement bridge that is currently under construction. They say their plan will help stem any major increases to tolls.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, both Republicans, stood at Memorial Park in Nyack on the Rockland side of the Tappan Zee Bridge, calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to use a portion of the $5.1 billion New York has received in one-time bank settlement funds. Here’s Day.

“We use propose using $1.95 billion of the settlement proceeds to help fund the new Tappan Zee Bridge,” says Day. “This figure represents only half the cost of the new span and only approximately 40 percent of the massive bank settlement.”

Astorino says the plan is a fair one, and the remainder of the bank settlement money should go toward other infrastructure projects across the state.

“He would still have billions left to use on vital, important programs that we need throughout this state,” says Astorino. “And when I say programs, I mean specifically capital projects.”

Day says a doubling or tripling of the current $5 cash toll on the Tappan Zee would cripple his county’s economy and negatively impact residents. He says that with his and Astorino’s plan, tolls could be held at current levels or with minimum increases.

“The Tappan Zee Bridge, and it’s another issue that has not been focused on enough, frankly, is vital and critical to the economic wellbeing of Rockland County in particular,” Day says. “Any toll hike from these already high tolls will not only add commuting costs, but will drive away substantial business from entities that provide more than 20 percent of all our sales-tax revenues to our county, most notably the Palisades Center and also will impact upon a new destination shopping area The Shops at Nanuet which is starting up doing quite well.”

Astorino says that without using a substantial portion of the bank settlement, motorists on the New York State Thruway, not just on the Tappan Zee Bridge, would face big toll hikes.

“I personally understand tolls may go up,” says Astorino. “If they’re going to go up, we want to make sure that they don’t go up to a level that is detrimental. And so we’ve come up with a plan that could keep it minimal or as it is.”

Astorino says he and Day penned a letter dated December 22 to the governor.

“The numbers that we have come up were well thought out," says Astorino. "I think they would hopefully be well received by the governor, and so we’re willing to work with the governor on this in any way that he deems necessary or that he thinks would be helpful, but certainly we have put out a plan that we think helps Westchester, Rockland, and the entire New York State.”

State Senator David Carlucci is an Independent Democrat whose district includes the Rockland County side of the Tappan Zee Bridge. In October, he stood in the same spot as the county executives with his plan to keep tolls low on the current and replacement Tappan Zee Bridge. Carlucci says he is happy to see that Day and Astorino are supporting a plan similar to his to ensure tolls on the Tappan Zee Bridge stay affordable.

Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee who represents all of Rockland and parts of Westchester, says it is essential to keep tolls as low as possible.

“The bank settlement has been proposed by Nita Lowey and many other people, it’s not original, and as we move this process along I know the governor and Nita Lowey are looking for ways to fund these tolls to make sure that they get down,” says Lowey.

She helped secure a $1.6 billion federal loan to help finance construction of the replacement Tappan Zee. Cuomo has previously said that on top of any additional federal funding, he would look to state grants as well as bank settlement money in financing the estimated $3.9 billion bridge. The Environmental Protection Agency in September shot down the bulk of the nearly half-a-billion dollars requested in loans for the new New York Bridge project, saying the money cannot come from clean water funding. The state is appealing.

Meanwhile, Day says Cuomo is weighing his and Astorino’s proposal. A Cuomo spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. 

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