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Astorino and Vanderhoef Can Block Transit-Less Tappan Zee. Will They?

County Executives Rob Astorino and C. Scott Vanderhoef have the power to stop Andrew Cuomo's transit-free Tappan Zee Bridge in its tracks. How far will they go in support of transit?

County Executives Rob Astorino and C. Scott Vanderhoef have been two of the most consistent and vocal advocates of restoring transit to the plans for a new Tappan Zee Bridge. They have understood that Westchester and Rockland County commuters need a way to travel east-west without a car and need congestion relief on crowded I-287.

Now, Astorino and Vanderhoef have a chance to show that their support for Tappan Zee transit is more than rhetorical -- or they can to accede to Governor Andrew Cuomo's plans to double down on the auto-only bridge design that hinders the economic vitality of the Hudson Valley.

On July 10, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council will vote on whether to include Cuomo's transit-free Tappan Zee in the region's long-range transportation plan, as required by federal law. NYMTC operates by consensus, and both Westchester and Rockland Counties have a seat on its board. If either Astorino or Vanderhoef were to object, the state’s rush toward construction could be slowed. That gives them a big bargaining chip to push for better transit across the bridge.

Using such a veto would be particularly appropriate given how much the public still does not know about the plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. The Cuomo administration still has not revealed how it would pay for the $5.4 billion bridge, nor has it adequately explained why it stripped transit from plans for the bridge without any public input.

"One 'no' vote could effectively stop a NYMTC project from moving forward," said Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Veronica Vanterpool. "Given the many concerns surrounding this project, such as financing, debt, environmental issues, and transparency, it would seem that many NYMTC members might want to seek answers to these before approving the Tappan Zee Bridge project in the Regional Transportation Plan on July 10th."

Whether the county executives will use all their power to push for Tappan Zee transit remains to be seen. Astorino has not yet decided how to vote next month, said spokesperson Donna Greene. "A new bridge needs to be built as soon as possible and a new bridge has to be built to position the county for the future," said Greene. "We don't want it to be obsolete the day it opens."

Vanderhoef's office has not yet responded to a Streetsblog inquiry on the issue.

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