Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
Cuomo Says Mass Transit System for Tappan Zee Would Double Costs
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Governor Andrew Cuomo said again Tuesday putting mass transit on both sides of the Tappan Zee Bridge would double construction costs – and that drivers would shoulder the burden.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Cuomo said that although a financing plan for the bridge has yet to be finalized, tolls will be a primary source of funding, which means construction costs would be passed onto drivers.
“You can build whatever you want,” he said. “You then have to pay for what you build.”
The governor has long said mass transit on the bridge would lead to toll hikes — and that if the counties want it, they can pay for it.
Earlier this year the governor’s press office sent out an email saying “currently the counties have no plans in place to construct these 64 miles of mass transit. The entire bridge is only three miles and will support mass transit, if and when the counties build it.”
Rockland County executive Scott Vanderhoef said the transit system would serve more people than just those who live in Rockland and Westchester.
“It’s a thruway system,” he said, “And ultimately you’re talking about multiple jurisdictions that it would have to serve…so it’s a regionally important area.”
Some advocates of adding bus rapid transit to the new bridge say the governor has overestimated the cost of mass transit.
Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said New York relied on projections for a much more elaborate project to reach their current estimates.
“If the state’s BRT cost analysis only considered installing bus rapid transit in the context of a massive I-287 overhaul, it made a mistake,” said Vanterpool in an email. “You don’t need to dig a tunnel to paint a bus lane.”
Westchester County executive Rob Astorino echoed that thought Tuesday.
In an appearance on the radio show “Live From the State Capitol,” he said: “If the average mile is considered to be about $166 million, according to the state, that is about ten times more than the average bus rapid transit mile in the nation.”
Vanderhoef did say he was encouraged by the state’s recent announcement that it would create rush-hour bus lanes on the new bridge.
Vanderhoef, Astorino and Putnam County executive MaryEllen Odell asked the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council to defer voting on the Tappan Zee Bridge until they get more information about the project.
“No one disagrees that the bridge needs to be replaced,” Vanderhoef said. “The question is: what are you buying?”
He said the final environmental impact statement, which will be released later this summer, would address those issues.
A NYMTC vote on the project — which is necessary in order to secure federal funding — could take place in September.