Construction is under way on the new Tappan Zee Bridge, and while it isn’t expected to be completed until 2018, the state still hasn’t figured out how to pay for the lion’s share of it. That’s a problem that must be addressed soon, because steep toll hikes are obviously going to be a big part of the solution, and the longer the Thruway waits to begin phasing them in, the steeper — and more politically difficult — they’re likely to be.
Tolls on the bridge have been kept artificially low — $5 per round-trip — for years. The reason, according to a report in Wednesday’s New York Times, is the region lacks the train and bus options that commuters using the George Washington Bridge have.
That should change somewhat with the new Tappan Zee, at least as far as buses are concerned, but if state officials are planning to raise tolls anywhere near the $13 currently charged on the GWB — and they say the money being borrowed to build the bridge will be paid back primarily with toll revenue — they certainly shouldn’t wait until the new bridge is finished to get started.
The project is expected to cost $3.9 billion, but that doesn’t include likely cost overruns, debt service on the bonds or the improved bus system. Only $1.6 billion has been lined up so far, so some tough decisions have be made, the sooner the better. Unfortunately, the Thruway Authority still hasn’t appointed a task force to even study the issue.