Faced with a crucial vote that could have set federal funding in motion for the Cuomo administration’s transit-less Tappan Zee Bridge replacement, three county leaders have asked for more information before signing off on the project.
The Journal News reports that Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Orange County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell postponed the vote scheduled for July 10, saying they want to see the Final Environmental Impact Statement first. Any of the three county execs can effectively veto the Tappan Zee project using their seats on the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council — the regional body that serves as intermediary between the feds and state and local transportation agencies.
Astorino and Vanderhoef have repeatedly called for Cuomo to make a more robust commitment to a multi-modal bridge, after the administration discarded plans for transit that were years in the making. Their request to postpone the NYMTC vote indicates that, so far, they are willing to follow through on their public statements. Odell’s request is somewhat unexpected since she had not signed on to the pro-transit coalition statement. Her decision to align with the other two execs may indicate the breadth of support in the Hudson Valley for a full-fledged transit corridor along the bridge and I-287.
The FEIS is expected to be released before the end of the month, and the NYMTC vote has yet to be re-scheduled. While it’s still anyone’s guess whether the postponement of the vote will lead to a better bridge (Thruway Authority director Thomas Madison told the Journal News that it would “in no way delay the project”), it will certainly lead to a better understanding of what the region would get under the Cuomo plan, and how residents would pay for it. As of today, critical information about project financing and the cost assumptions that led the state to abandon plans for transit remains unknown.
“The county executives, and the public, have been asking the same questions since October and have gotten few answers,” said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “NYMTC members have an obligation to be fully informed before they can vote on a project like the Tappan Zee Bridge, which has such significant regional implications. How can NYMTC members vote on whether the new bridge project should be part of the regional plan when they don’t even know the final environmental implications of the project? Fast-tracking a project shouldn’t compromise transparency.”
In recent correspondence with Streetsblog, the governor’s press office has shared more of the administration’s thinking about the Tappan Zee plans. We’ll be reporting what we’ve learned in the days ahead.