New Lane Debut for Tappan Zee, New Toll-Hike Chatter

New Lane Debut for Tappan Zee, New Toll-Hike Chatter

The Tappan Zee bridge project in New York’s Westchester County is scheduled to open its westbound lane to traffic on Friday, Aug. 25th, according to the New York Thruway, the authority overseeing the project. And they’re going to name the new bridge after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s father.

It’s a stunning project to behold and a big milestone. At $4 billion, it’s a big price tag with roughly $400 million still unfunded, give or take.

The AP’s update on the project Monday tallies that the state has dedicated $2 billion from bank settlements and $1.6 billion from a federal loan to fund the project, according to Cuomo’s office.

One span of the future Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge will open to westbound traffic Friday, signaling near-completion of a project to replace the 62-year-old Tappan Zee that has served as the poster child for America’s crumbling infrastructure. The second span is scheduled for completion in the spring.

The 3-mile-long bridge linking Westchester County to the New York State Thruway across the widest point in the Hudson is one of the largest public infrastructure projects underway in the U.S. and a model of the latest engineering. It will take more than 50 million vehicles a year across the river, from Manhattan commuters to truckers looking to skirt the traffic-choked city 25 miles to the south.

Greg Biryla, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a coalition of business and trade organizations, tells the AP he is hearing  “whispers about raising tolls across the Thruway system to pay for a Bridge many upstate commuters will never use.”

Right now, the toll is $5 ($4.75 for EZ Pass holders).

ABC News affiliate WTEN quoted Empire Center for Public Policy E.J. McMahon August 2nd:

Never have we seen a project “approaching this scale for which there was no financial plan before it was built.”

The Governer’s office is pushing back on the chatter, telling the AP:

“There has been no upstate toll revenue used to support the construction and financing of the new bridge, and no upstate toll revenue will be necessary to cover any remaining costs as the Tappan Zee currently provides significant funding for the entire Thruway system,” said [Abbey Fashouer, a spokeswoman for Cuomo].

But the Democratic governor said last month that tolls from the entire 570-mile Thruway system will help pay the bridge bills. He has also pledged that Thruway tolls will be frozen through 2020.

After that, it’s anybody’s guess, but a pretty good one that they will go up, if the hints from Bill Finch, executive director of the NYThruway, are any indication:

“Obviously like anything else in society, the cost of producing this is going up. Health care is stable but it’s not going down. Gasoline is not going down. All the things that the Thruway buys and pays for, which is labor and steel and concrete and asphalt are probably not going down. They are going to go up…

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