Calling it a metaphor for the state’s future, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a spirited pitch today to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge, saying for too long plans to replace the bridge has been bogged down over indecision.
“You know what I say, ‘Build the Bridge. Build the Bridge,'” Cuomo said during a speech to a state Democratic Committee gathering. “I don’t want to hear why we can’t. I don’t want to hear about the problems. If that was the attitude, this state would never be this state.”
Cuomo said a new Tappan Zee Bridge would be a $6 billion project that would create 90,000 jobs and be an anchor for development in the Hudson Valley. He compared replacing the bridge to other once-grandiose plans in New York that ultimately came to fruition, such as the Erie Canal and the development of Manhattan.
He said the inability to replace the 56-year-old bridge which needs constant repairs and has 135,000 vehicles crossing it a day is “a metaphor for the incapacity that we run into. It’s a metaphor for the lack of the ability to dream big and do big things. It’s also a metaphor for the opportunity that we have.”
Cuomo has increasingly talked about the need to come up with a broad strategy to upgrade the state’s infrastructure, and a focus on infrastructure is expected to be a top agenda item for Cuomo next year. He helped push the Obama administration last month to fast track the approval process for a new Tappan Zee Bridge, which crosses the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties.
But funding and the scope of the project remains a major question mark. Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino said today in a memo to the state Department of Transportation that the bridge replacement should include mass transit, saying otherwise a new bridge wouldn’t alleviate growing traffic problems.
Cuomo has indicated that he might pursue public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, including the Tappan Zee. There’s also talk of the state potentially pursuing its own infrastructure bank to fund road and bridge projects or undertaking a borrowing package with higher tolls to fund capital improvements.
“There is nothing we can’t do. We believe in us and we have to recapture that spirit and that energy and that ability and that daring and that’s what next year is going to be about,” Cuomo said. “We’re going to think big and we’re going to act big.”
Here’s part of Cuomo’s speech at the Democratic conference.