Ny State Governor Andrew Cuomo
Monday, November 26, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) Seven of the eight subway tunnels flooded by Sandy are back in service. But New York City Transit president Tom Prendergast said it will probably be months before the authority finishes fixing the eighth tunnel, which carries the R train under the harbor between Brooklyn and Manhattan. He said the problem is with the tunnel's electrical systems, such as the switches that keep track of train locations.
"Electrical equipment doesn't like water for obvious reasons -- water is conductive," he told reporters at the Midtown headquarters of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "But salt water is very conductive and when salt water dries, it leaves salt, which is also conductive when it gets re-wet."
Prendergast said the authority does expect to get the R train running between 34th and Rector Streets--a normally busy stretch in Manhattan--within two weeks.
But he said the South Ferry subway station is also months away from re-opening. Sandy flooded that station to the ceiling, leaving little inside it untouched.
"You've got wall tiles that are down, you've got railings that are damaged," Prendergast said. "You've got possible damage behind wall surfaces, you've got electrical equipment in the form of elevators and escalators." (See a pic of drowning subway escalators here.) And as with the R train tunnel under the harbor, the station's electrical switches are coated in salt water and must be replaced.
The R train tunnel is one of the longest under-river crossings in the system and took more time to dry out, leaving more equipment damaged than in other tunnels.
A spokesman for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the MTA's price tag for damage caused by Sandy tops $5 billion.
(Click here to see what parts of the NYC subway system are still down.)
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) The two-part political rule for any toll increase is a) voters will hate it b) officials must jockey to shift the blame.
That dynamic began today with the release of a report by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli questioning the need for a proposed 45 percent toll hike on commercial vehicles using the New York State Thruway. He blasted the authority for an operating budget that has ballooned by 36 percent over the past ten years, and urged the authority to save money by "consolidating functions" and handing off control of the money-losing Erie Canal.
“Imposing a large toll increase could have damaging effects on consumers and businesses at a time when many New Yorkers are struggling to recover from the recession,” DiNapoli said. “The Thruway should do more before relying on yet another toll hike to make ends meet.”
Governor Cuomo did not disagree. He echoed DiNapoli in saying tolls should be raised as "a last resort." But while taking questions from reporters in Albany, the governor raised the specter of "a real crisis" for the state if the thruway authority doesn't have the revenue it needs to "fix roads and build new bridges."
Then the finger-pointing began in earnest.
Thomas Madison, the Cuomo-appointed executive director of the thruway authority, fired off a statement blaming DiNapoli's lax oversight for contributing to the authority's dire financial straits. "The Comptroller, and his audits over the years, have actually contributed to past problems at the Thruway Authority by failing to report years of fiscal gimmicks and deferred expenses," Madison said.
Knowing the timeline is crucial to sorting out the argument. Madison took over the thruway authority last September; DiNapoli has been comptroller since early 2007. Madison was essentially blaming prior administrations at the authority for taking out burdensome loans that are now coming due--and DiNapoli for not calling them on it.
Then Madison defended a toll hike this year, at least in theory:
“The fact remains that tolls for large trucks on the Thruway – mostly long distance haulers – are 50 to 85 percent less in New York than in comparable states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And each of these trucks creates thousands of times more damage to roads and bridges than a passenger car. Heavy trucks, not passenger vehicles, should bear these added costs, so that tolls can be kept as low as possible for all motorists.”
When reporters asked Cuomo whether the thruway authority should take DiNapoli's suggestion and have the authority give up oversight of the corporation that oversees the the occasionally scandal-plagued Erie Canal, Cuomo dodged the question. "The canal is a great asset to the state," Cuomo said. "I don't think there's anyone who says that we should close down the Erie Canal. It's part of our legacy, it's part of our history, it's important for tourism."
Of course DiNapoli wasn't questioning the canal's importance, only that its operation had cost the authority more than $1 billion over the past two decades--and that the state would be better served to pay the canal's bills with revenue not collected from toll-paying drivers. Cuomo did concede that the canal was hurting the authority's bottom line: "It is not a money-maker at this point," he said.
The first of several public hearings on the toll hikes is scheduled for tomorrow in Buffalo. If passed, the hike would be the fifth increase since 2005.
Thursday, May 03, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(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.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) New York State seems primed to gain more "complete" streets in the near future. A bill requiring transportation planners to consider pedestrian and bike-friendly features when building and redesigning roads passed in the New York State Assembly last night, after previously passing in the State Senate.
The bill now goes to Governor Cuomo, who is expected to sign it into law.
So-called 'complete streets' include not just space for vehicles but elements like bike lanes, pedestrian islands, countdown crosswalk signals and expanded curbs for people waiting to board a bus. The requirement would apply to roads built with state or federal money.
Nadine Lemmon, legislative advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, is using state statistics to lobby for the Governor's signature. "New York has some of the most dangerous roads in the nation," she said. "Over the last ten years, over 3,000 pedestrians have died on our roads and our research at Tri-State shows that one of the leading causes of these deaths is faulty road design."
Some highway superintendents complained about the cost of adding bike lanes and similar features to road projects. So the bill was changed in a late negotiation to require them in the design phase, while making their implementation optional if they'd put a project over budget. A town or county cannot be sued if it chooses not to install complete street features for budgetary reasons.