There is no doubt that maintaining and improving New York’s roads, bridges and infrastructure is an important part of what the government must do to provide for state residents, however, doing so responsibly must be a priority. Unfortunately, the Thruway Authority’s lack of transparency and planning with respect to the replacement Tappan Zee Bridge (TZB) has put all New York taxpayers at risk, and moving forward without providing residents, businesses and local officials with a responsible plan is disrespectful, dangerous and unfair.
It is critical that New York secure the lowest interest rates when funding projects of this magnitude, and the best way to do so is with a concrete, sound and responsible plan. A gross lack of transparency only obstructs projects like the replacement TZB. Further, there is still no indication of the bridge’s toll, nor is there a definitive answer to how the financing of the construction will be paid back, and that is simply unacceptable.
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS, LOCAL GOVERNMENT SPEAK OUT
The estimated $3.9 billion project puts all New Yorkers on the hook, and a recent vote to borrow more than $255 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which is not meant to be a safety valve for poorly-planned bridge projects, is the latest example in a series of ill-advised funding plans.
A number of organizations such as Environmental Advocates, Hudson Riverkeeper and the Westchester Municipal Officials Association have asked the Governor and Thruway Authority to reconsider the loan due to an obvious risk to the residents of the state. Although the lending plan was amended, there is still no indication as to how the rest of the bridge will be paid for.
Before any additional money is borrowed from the CWSRF, a full financial plan that outlines how the rest of the project will be funded should be provided or risk not passing through the Public Authorities Control Board. Taxpayers have a right to know how much the planned toll will be, if other tolls will be raised by the Thruway Authority to compensate for the project, and if any other Thruway projects will be impacted by the bridge construction.
THRUWAY AUTHORITY HAS HISTORY OF MISMANAGEMENT
With the Thruway Authority’s proposed 45 percent toll increase on trucks still fresh in the minds of taxpayers and commuters, it is clear the public is ready for much-needed reform. The TZB project is merely the latest example of the authority’s ineffectiveness. I am proud to have been the first legislative leader to publicly point out the audacity of the proposed hike, and I must now, again, reiterate that the Thruway Authority has not been effective. My Thruway Authority Accountability Act (A.2088A) will make state government more efficient, and fix and provide much-needed oversight of the costs to New Yorkers. It would:
- Merge the Thruway Authority with the state Department of Transportation (DOT);
- Create a new Thruway Authority Board whose members must have transportation expertise;
- Make the state DOT commissioner chair of the Thruway Authority Board;
- Require a comprehensive forensic audit of Thruway Authority finances every three years – and release the audit’s findings to the Legislature and other state government officials;
- Require any proposed Thruway toll hikes – and the reasons for the requested increases – to be clearly identified in the state DOT’s budget; and
- Save money by consolidating the Thruway Authority’s overlapping functions with the state DOT and streamlining the authority through attrition.
These reforms would put the brakes on the Thruway Authority’s ability to keep taxpayers in the dark any longer.
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at email@example.com, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.