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Editorial: Still waiting on bridge funding

Editorial: Still waiting on bridge funding

Taxpayers should know where funding for new Tappan Zee bridge is coming from by now
Editorial: Still waiting on bridge funding
The new Mario Cuomo Bridge, shot in May 2017
Photographer: New York Times

“Reveal how Tappan Zee will be funded.”

That was the headline of an editorial that appeared in this paper ... on September 28, 2014.

On August 26, 2017, almost three years after that headline first appeared and two days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode in a shiny yellow convertible across the first open lane, we still don’t have the answer.

The bridge is almost complete. It even has a new official name, the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo bridge.

But it still doesn’t have a funding source. 

Back in 2014, we knew about the $1.6 billion federal transportation loan, which taxpayers will have to pay back eventually. But an expected allocation from a federal environmental fund for $511 million only turned out to be about $30 million. A 45 percent hike in Thruway tolls proposed by the governor in 2012, which could have helped offset the cost of the new span, went over like a lead balloon. So it was never enacted, and that revenue source was never realized.

The rest of the funding for the bridge, which no doubt will include some kind of toll hike somewhere, was not revealed at the time.

And now, three years later, we still don’t know.

For Gov. Cuomo to leave the funding for a nearly $4 billion state project in indefinite limbo, perhaps until he’s out of office (maybe in the White House), is unfair to New York taxpayers who will shoulder some of the bill, to downstate motorists who pay the tolls to cross the new bridge, and to all motorists and truckers from in and out of state who pay tolls on the state’s Thruway system.

The governor and lawmakers need to remove the uncertainty and finally tell us how we’re all going to pay for this thing.

To detract from the funding questions, the governor boasts that the 3.1-mile long bridge was completed on time and on budget. And if being on-budget means that the project ended up costing what the state said it would cost, then the governor’s statement is accurate.

But think about it. Exactly how can the project be on-budget when the state didn’t know how that project would be funded?

Try that in your own household. “We budgeted $20,000 for a new car and we bought a $20,000 new car.” Can you really afford the car if something else suffers? What if, for instance, you have to take money from an account set aside to fix your leaky roof to pay for it? Was the budget ever realistic?

What if taxpayers were unwilling, before the new span was built, to pay higher taxes or higher tolls on Thruway? Would the state still have gone forward with the project at its present cost? Or would it have been forced to compromise and reallocate the money to some other needs? That’s what we mean by questioning the original budget estimate.

It’s time New Yorkers demand that the governor and the Legislature be honest and tell us exactly how much we’ll all be required to pay for this bridge in taxes and tolls.

We didn’t know the answer three years ago.

We definitely should know by now.


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