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Tappan Zee Bridge

Transit-Free Tappan Zee Bridge Financial Plan: It’s “Dynamic”!

5:25 PM EDT on May 29, 2012

Not shown on Thruway Authority director Tom Madison's timeline: paying for the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The Cuomo administration plans to select a team to build the new Tappan Zee Bridge this summer and begin construction this year. So it's about time for the governor to say how he plans to pay for the bridge, right?

Luckily, in order to comply with federal transportation law, the state issued a financial summary of the project just last week [PDF]. Rest assured, taxpayers: the state has a clear and detailed plan to pay for the bridge. To wit: "The plan of finance for the Project assumes the Project will be financed with toll revenue bonds among a broad range of options under consideration. The level and timing of toll adjustments, debt structure, and balance between debt and pay-as-you-go funding remain under development."

That's the kind of iron-clad commitment you can take to the bank.

But just in case you're worried that the Cuomo administration is locking itself into a specific strategy to pay for the new bridge, fear not: "The plan of finance will be dynamic in character and take into consideration new information as it becomes available."

The financial summary does note that, if push comes to shove, the Thruway can cover the cost of the bridge by raising tolls. Of course, Thruway Authority executive director Thomas Madison has consistently refused to say whether a toll hike will be necessary to build the bridge, much less provide New Yorkers with details like whether Thruway drivers in Western New York will end up paying for the Hudson Valley's new and overbuilt bridge.

In other news, Andrew Cuomo claims to run an administration that is "the most transparent and accountable in history."

It's clear that there isn't yet any plan to find the $5.4 billion (sometimes $6.0 billion, but who's counting?) needed to build a new Tappan Zee that is twice as wide as the current bridge. That makes it awfully hard to take the Cuomo administration seriously when officials protest that the state just can't afford to add bus rapid transit, which had been estimated to cost under $1 billion for a 30 mile corridor until the Cuomo administration wildly inflated its price tag without any explanation. If it's all going to come down to toll-backed bonds in the end, as looks increasingly likely, the Cuomo administration could opt to raise Thruway tolls a little bit higher and pay for transit.

The problem was never that the state couldn't afford Tappan Zee Bridge transit. If anything, the state can't afford not to build transit; forcing New Yorkers to drive over another 1950's style bridge will cost more in gas and congestion, not to mention pollution and sprawl, than it will save in construction costs. The problem is just that Andrew Cuomo, true to form, won't spend a dime on transit.

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