The Rockland County Legislature has voted unanimously on a resolution to urge a New York state panel to provide discounted tolls for Rockland residents on the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
The bipartisan vote urges the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge Toll Advisory Panel to recommend discounted tolls for Rockland bridge users. The resolution came after the panel held two public listening sessions around mid-July, one on the Westchester side of the Tappan Zee replacement and the other on the Rockland side. Democrat Nancy Low-Hogan is vice chair of the Rockland County Legislature.
“Rockland is transportation challenged. Rockland County has transportation issues,” Low-Hogan says. “There is no easy way for Rockland residents to go to work in either Westchester or even Connecticut or New York City, and so they are, in many cases, forced to drive.”
She says some 60 percent of Rockland residents are in this category. Low-Hogan, a co-sponsor of the resolution and South Nyack resident, says all Rockland residents should receive a discount, but discounts should be tiered.
“The reason, I should say, I suggest it should be a graduated toll discount is it should be based, in my opinion, on the number of trips a person makes in any given month,” says Low-Hogan. “So if a person goes to work five days a week, they would get probably the highest discount of any of the people who get a… any of the Rockland County people who get discounts, and it would go down from there.”
She delivered similar comments to the Toll Advisory Panel’s session in Nyack July 18. Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day on the legislature’s resolution:
“So it was good for the Legislature to do that. Sadly, it doesn’t have the enforcement aspect to it, but it does detail the concerns we have here in Rockland, and I thank them for that,” says Day. “But, the fact of the matter is this whole issue of tolls, I am sorry, I do not agree that tolls should be increased at all, for residents or otherwise.”
Tolls on the 3.1-mile span are frozen through 2020. The current cash toll is $5; for New York E-EZPass account holders, it’s $4.75. The recently assembled Toll Advisory Panel is tasked with reviewing toll rates as well as resident and commuter discount programs and commercial vehicle rates. A New York State Thruway Authority spokesperson says all public feedback, including the Rockland Legislature’s recent resolution, is welcome and will be used in combination with other factors such as fiscal information and current and projected needs of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to review toll rates and potential discount programs. Again, Day.
“So there’s numerous things that could be done here. The last thing that needs to be looked at is raising tolls. This is not a New York City bridge; this is not the George Washington, that’s a Port Authority bridge that has an airport and real estate attached. The bridges in the city, which almost run about $10, close to 10 bucks now, nearly most of that money goes to support the subway system,” Day says. “There is only one other bridge between Westchester and Rockland and that’s the one I’m going to compare it to, and that bridge is the Bear Mountain Bridge, and it runs $1.50.”
The July public listening sessions were the first step in an ongoing review process. The Thruway Authority spokesperson says toll rates and any special discounts, such as resident discounts, are part of a larger budget conversation for the Thruway Authority to consider. Meantime, Day says escalating truck traffic on the bridge is a problem.
“We have other issues with the trucks. The trucks are bypassing the city now,” Day says. “Truck tolls should be increased, frankly, that would bring in funding because they’re bypassing New York City and they’re going to be punishing this bridge very, very quickly.”
Low-Hogan agrees, and says such truck noise must be addressed. She is working with residents along with area mayors and state legislators on this issue. And she hopes state lawmakers who represent Rockland are key to pressing for discounts for county residents.
“So it’s political pressure. That’s what I think we’re trying to do,” Low-Hogan says. “We’re trying to put a spotlight on this issue and highlight it to the governor, to the Thruway Authority, to the community so that, hopefully, the decision that is made about the tolls is going to work to our advantage, the Rockland County advantage.”
Democratic Legislator Harriet Cornell, a resolution co-sponsor, says that the cost of building the new bridge and of operating the Thruway system cannot fall on Rockland County residents and businesses, a viewpoint that County Executive Day has repeatedly echoed.