I am very pleased to report more good information that came from a Tappan Zee Bridge community meeting held by representatives of the Governor’s office at the New City Library, one of many they have held as part of a uniquely transparent process. It is becoming more clear that the matter of cost to the Rockland resident has become a major focal point of the conversation.
During my remarks at that meeting, I emphasized two things; the critical health, safety, and economic need to get the new TZ bridge done AND to the need do the work necessary to mitigate the toll costs to our local residents. We have now pretty much exploded the myth of comparing the projected toll cost to the G.W. or N.Y.C. MTA bridges, as those agencies, unlike the Thruway Authority, have massive investments in real estate, airports, and the subway. I found it most interesting that the planners had not pointed to the nearby northern bridges in making their projected “toll cost” comparisons, such as the Bear Mountain and Mid-Hudson. Maybe because those bridges’ tolls range only between a buck or two!
I believe that just by not signing on to the entire package and raising my voice early on regarding projected tolls has provided some impetus for government to do better. It is my view that the cost of a major crossing that is part of the NYS Thruway should be borne across the ENTIRE thruway. I am most impressed and grateful that Governor Cuomo has accepted that challenge.
It is my opinion that this TZ Bridge project has become a golden opportunity to improve the entire funding structure of the Thruway itself. Start with reversing the blatantly, political 1992 decision by the State legislature by returning the funding for New York State Canal system and its 524-mile inland waterway from the NYS Thruway to a separate authority or the general fund. Your tolls should not be going to fund the waterways of the northernmost section of this State.
It is critical that we do our utmost to mitigate the tolls. As I stated last night, I believe that there will be an impact on our economy in so many areas, most notably the Palisades Mall, which provides approximately 25% of our entire county sales tax revenue. Do you think that a significant number of Westchester residents who travel here now may put there $14 back in their pocket and shop at the new Ridge Hill Shopping Center on their side of the Hudson? Government needs to understand their decisions impact the economics of both commerce and community when they implement new costs.
Look to merge the New York State Bridge Authority into the New York State Thruway Authority, as there is no logical reason to have two separate authorities operating bridges over the Hudson River within New York State. Revenues from the tolls collected on the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson, Rhinecliff, and Rip Van Winkle Bridges could help improve the finances of the Thruway Authority and help fund the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Also, the Thruway Authority is responsible for the maintenance of I-84 from Port Jervis, on the border with Pennsylvania, to Brewster, on the border with Connecticut. No tolls are collected on this section of I-84 in New York State with the exception of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, and the NYS Thruway Authority does not see one penny of that revenue. So right now, motorists going over the Tappan Zee Bridge are paying for the maintenance of I-84, not the motorists who are actually using I-84! Oh, and that bridge’s round trip toll? ONLY $1.50!
Yes, an opportunity to make government smarter, less expensive, and more efficient. Let’s all push for that as we here in Rockland would be the greatest beneficiary!
Edwin J. “Ed” Day is a Rockland County Legislator representing New City-Pomona.