The $4 billion replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge has a new name (the
Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge) and an official opening date (August
25), but still no public details on how it will be paid for. This is
inexcusable and insulting to New Yorkers whose hard-earned tax dollars
will be used to subsidize the project.
However, while we continue to wait for the state to provide a detailed
financial plan, the governor recently offered a sliver of information of
where future bridge payments would come from. “The remainder (of the
bridge costs) after 2020 will be paid with toll revenue from the entire
(Thruway) system,” he said.
This is a complete about-face from the administration’s previous
position, and troubling news for upstate drivers. In 2014 then-Thruway
Executive Director Thomas Madison claimed, “there will be no system-wide
toll increase to support the New NY Bridge project.”
Apparently things have changed – and not for the better. In essence, the
public has been kept completely in the dark on this public project, and
the scarce information shared in the past has turned out to be nothing
more than a broken promise.
*BRIDGE COSTS HAVE DRIVERS BRACING FOR IMPACT*
Between 2015 and 2016, the state used $2 billion in settlement funds to
provide a financial bailout of the Thruway Authority. As a result, toll
prices are frozen for the next two years. But after that, with a massive
downstate bridge project to pay for, there is no telling how high
Thruway tolls might climb.
The governor’s recent remarks indicate that Upstate drivers will be
subsidizing the costs of the bridge for an untold number of years to
come. Drivers who may never cross the bridge will be paying down debt
accumulated during its construction. This is an unfair approach that
will harm Upstate small business owners and commuters alike. Thruway
tolls are already an onerous burden for overtaxed New Yorkers. Raising
prices further is an insult.
*UNFAIR TO UPSTATE*
In 2012, the governor proposed an outrageous 45-percent Thruway toll
hike. I was firmly against it for exactly the same reasons I oppose any
new attempts to increase them; it is too expensive to get around New
York. Between gasoline taxes, tolls and the damage drivers must mitigate
due to the state’s crumbling roads, New York is a financial minefield
for vehicle owners. Adding additional costs for farmers transporting
their goods, drivers heading to work, and businesses delivering critical
products and services will undoubtedly inhibit the state’s economy.
People don’t need another reason to flee.
Government should be working to ease the costs on taxpayers, consumers
and commuters, not exacerbate them. Naturally, infrastructure projects
cost money and are necessary. But, they must be funded equitably and
openly. From construction costs to the recent re-naming, the governor
has made every effort to keep the public away from the details of his
bridge plans. He should make the same effort to keep upstate drivers
away from picking up the tab.
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback,
suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York
State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030,
by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook
and follow me on Twitter