The New Tappan Zee Bridge project has been steadily progressing on many fronts, but there has not been any serious discussion of how much the toll will increase, The Journal News/lohud.com reports. The state has received approval for a federal loan and construction has started on the new bridge, which could cost $4.8 billion.
Last August, after one of his aides said a new cash toll could be $14, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the New York State Thruway Authority to establish a toll and finance task force to look at options, but the public authority hasn’t appointed members yet. A $14 toll is comparable to other Hudson River crossings.
But with the governor running for re-election this year and toll hikes always controversial, it’s unclear whether a task force will be convened this year.
“Gov. Cuomo said he’d have the most transparent administration ever, but here again he is making a mockery of that pledge,” said Bill O’Reilly, campaign manager for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is mulling a run against Cuomo. “The silence from the governor can only mean one thing, so watch out commuters.”
Brian Conybeare, special adviser to Cuomo on the Tappan Zee project, said leaders are putting together a team of “local stakeholders from Rockland and Westchester along with financial experts and transportation officials” to “keep future tolls as low as possible.” He didn’t say how long that would take, though.
“The Toll Financing Task Force will undertake a major challenge and we want to make sure we get it right,” Conybeare wrote in an email.
Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, suggested that state officials are tip-toeing around the issue because of what happened with the Thruway Authority’s 2012 effort to increase Thruway tolls for trucks.
“When there was a proposed truck toll increase of 45 percent, there was such vehement opposition,” Vanterpool said. “We know that it resulted in it not being scaled back, but it being eliminated. Toll increases are not something that are popular with the public and not politically an easy lift.”
(Journal News file photo of Tappan Zee Bridge tolls.)