(New York, NY - WNYC) In the Q & A after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the members of a new state Infrastructure Bank Board, he talked today about how the state might pay to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge after the federal government did not grant a $2 billion loan application.
(Ray LaHood wrote about the projects that did get the funding here.)
The proposed $5.2 billion project is a high priority for Cuomo. It would build two spans to replace an aging, overcrowded bridge across the Hudson River in New York City's northern suburbs.
Environmental and transportation groups have criticized the replacement bridge's design because it makes no provision for transit. Some opponents have suggested Cuomo's vehicles-only approach contributed to the project's failure to win federal transportation funding.
But Cuomo downplayed the decision by the Obama administration not to grant a loan on April 26. Cuomo said he's considering public-private partnerships that could leverage private financing, but he has no proposal at this time.
Here's an excerpt of the Q & A:
Q: Was it disappointing to not get the federal transportation loan for the Tappan Zee Bridge? Also, any progress on the next steps in terms of funding?
Cuomo: I believe the federal transportation funds will be reauthorized and I believe we will be competitive. Howard, anything new on the Tappan Zee financing?
Director of State Operations Howard Glaser: We’re doing many things simultaneously: the environmental review, the financial plans, working out labor agreements. So you’ll continue to see that work being done over the next few months.
Q: Do you need public-private partnership legislation to fund the bridge?
Cuomo: We’re talking about public-private partnership legislation. We don’t have an immediate proposal on that.
[Cuomo then talked about the various political obstacles to the project, and the need to overcome them to show that the state can still think and build big.]
[We're battling] inertia and institutional opposition—just bureaucratic opposition: opposition of the system, opposition to change, opposition to risk, which is very real and one of the main challenges you’re going to face.
The Tappan Zee Bridge is a project that has been talked about for decades, literally. The Tappan Zee Bridge--and there’s a project called the Peace Bridge in Buffalo--are large scale public works projects that have been talked about for decades but have somehow defied progress, let alone completion. That is one of those cultural enemies, I think, to progress. This sense that big projects are just too difficult to tackle.
Building a bridge: it’s controversial, it’s complex, there’s going to be opposition and [the idea that] if there’s opposition, we should stop. We’re trying to do the exact opposite with the Tappan Zee. We’re trying to say, ‘When there is a pressing need, government should be able to respond quickly, expeditiously, efficiently. Hear everyone, fair process, due process…but then get it done. Get it done.’
Government was about functioning [during the tenure of former NY State Governor] Al Smith. Government was about functioning and performing, competently, quickly. So the Tappan Zee Bridge, which we’ll be involved in, is a project that we identified early on, that is not just going to be about repairing that bridge. But it’s going to be about making the statement that government can work and society can work and we can still do big things. We’re that good. So keeping the Tappan Zee on time and moving along is very important to us.
Q: The biggest roadblock seems to be how to pay for it.
Cuomo: We’re working through a number of financing options and we’ll present a number of options for discussion and we’ll pick the best one.
Q: Will you be passing legislation during this session to allow you to raise public-private money for the Tappan Zee Bridge? Would it have to go through legislation?
Cuomo: It would not have to go through legislation. No.