Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
(Tarrytown, New York -- Richard Yeh, WNYC) New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo toured the aging Tappan Zee Bridge with local transportation officials Monday, but offered no details on how to pay for an overhaul or possible replacement of the bridge.
A state report out last year estimated that a replacement bridge with commuter rail would cost about $6.4 billion. It also concluded that rehabilitation options "are not reasonable or prudent" since any overhaul would be massive and result in similar cost and environmental impacts, but with inferior engineering and retrofits that are complex and inherently risky.
About 150,000 vehicles a day cross the Tappan Zee, a three-mile-long bridge over the Hudson River that connects Rockland and Westchester counties. That's compared to just 18,000 when the bridge opened in 1955, and Cuomo says the situation "typifies" New York's transportation needs.
"There are roughly 17,000 bridges in the State of New York. About 5,000 of those bridges are deemed 'deficient' which means the replacement or repair is a chronic problem," says Cuomo, adding that many of those bridges were designed with approximate life span of about 50 years.
"While there are several design concepts to be considered and refined as an environmental process moves forward on a possible replacement for this 55-year-old bridge," says John Buono, chairman of New York State Thruway Authority, "funding has not yet to be identified for this massive critical regional transportation project."
Cuomo says given a looming $9 billion state budget deficit in the next fiscal year, the answer to the state's transportation needs is not more taxes.
"The answer can't always be 'we have to spend more money.' The answer has to be 'let's look at the $137 billion [state budget] that we do spend and find a way to spend that money better," says Cuomo. "And that's going to be all across the board."
The Governor-elect didn't say how he would build a new bridge without spending money.