New Bridge Will Take A Toll On All New Yorkers

The $4 billion replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge has a new name (the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge) and an official opening date (August 25), but still no public details on how it will be paid for. This is inexcusable and insulting to New Yorkers whose hard-earned tax dollars will be used to subsidize the project.
 
However, while we continue to wait for the state to provide a detailed financial plan, the governor recently offered a sliver of information of where future bridge payments would come from. “The remainder (of the bridge costs) after 2020 will be paid with toll revenue from the entire (Thruway) system,” he said.
 
This is a complete about-face from the administration’s previous position, and troubling news for upstate drivers. In 2014 then-Thruway Executive Director Thomas Madison claimed, “there will be no system-wide toll increase to support the New NY Bridge project.”
 
Apparently things have changed – and not for the better. In essence, the public has been kept completely in the dark on this public project, and the scarce information shared in the past has turned out to be nothing more than a broken promise.

BRIDGE COSTS HAVE DRIVERS BRACING FOR IMPACT
 
Between 2015 and 2016, the state used $2 billion in settlement funds to provide a financial bailout of the Thruway Authority. As a result, toll prices are frozen for the next two years. But after that, with a massive downstate bridge project to pay for, there is no telling how high Thruway tolls might climb. 
 
The governor’s recent remarks indicate that Upstate drivers will be subsidizing the costs of the bridge for an untold number of years to come. Drivers who may never cross the bridge will be paying down debt accumulated during its construction. This is an unfair approach that will harm Upstate small business owners and commuters alike. Thruway tolls are already an onerous burden for overtaxed New Yorkers. Raising prices further is an insult.
 
UNFAIR TO UPSTATE
 
In 2012, the governor proposed an outrageous 45-percent Thruway toll hike. I was firmly against it for exactly the same reasons I oppose any new attempts to increase them; it is too expensive to get around New York. Between gasoline taxes, tolls and the damage drivers must mitigate due to the state’s crumbling roads, New York is a financial minefield for vehicle owners. Adding additional costs for farmers transporting their goods, drivers heading to work, and businesses delivering critical products and services will undoubtedly inhibit the state’s economy. People don’t need another reason to flee.
 
Government should be working to ease the costs on taxpayers, consumers and commuters, not exacerbate them. Naturally, infrastructure projects cost money and are necessary. But, they must be funded equitably and openly. From construction costs to the recent re-naming, the governor has made every effort to keep the public away from the details of his bridge plans. He should make the same effort to keep upstate drivers away from picking up the tab.
 
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 kolbb@nyassembly.gov, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

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