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Ads to greet motorists at Hudson Valley bridges

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-955412.mp3

Highland, NY – Money is tight for seemingly everyone these days, but as WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry reports, one state authority is looking to bring in new revenue sources through advertisements...

To get from one side of the Hudson River to the other throughout the Hudson Valley, you'll have to cross one of five bridges. On a clear, sunny day, the views are spectacular. There are plenty of boats in the summer, snow-covered landscapes in the winter, and now, there will be small green lizards, according to Joseph Ruggiero, the Executive Director of the New York State Bridge Authority, which operates and maintains bridges stretching from the Rip Van Winkle, connecting Greene and Columbia Counties, to the Bear Mountain Bridges in the lower Hudson Valley.

The authority will begin displaying advertisements in the front windows of toll booths, including Geico ads this week, as a way to generate revenue, which will then be used for maintenance of the bridges. Ruggiero says the idea comes at a time when governments talk about the idea of public-private partnerships..

The idea of public-private collaborations is one brought up just this week during a budget hearing in Albany. It's an idea that's being floated to help fund the multi-billion dollar replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge, which, on average, has 140-thousand vehicles cross back and forth each day. State Senator David Carlucci says he's on board with the idea of exploring possibilities like advertising to generate revenues.

The federal Highway Beautification Act, passed in the 1960's, regulates and restricts certain types of advertising on highways across the nation, and where it can be located. However, the New York State Bridge Authority receives no federal transportation funds, which means the regulations do not apply in this instance. The revenue search won't stop there for the bridge authority, according to Ruggiero, who says they will soon announce a deal with a major telecom company.

Jonathan Drapkin heads the public policy research organization Pattern for Progress. He says there could be changes from the way maintenance and construction projects have been funded in the past, due to problems over bonding for major projects.

Authority officials expect revenues of several hundred thousand dollars a year from the advertisements at toll booths. Some of that money will also be used for maintenance of the Walkway Over the Hudson, the pedestrian bridge, which the authority also maintains.