Enough already with the ruminations about building a new Tappan Zee Bridge, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today. He said building a new bridge has been studied and debated for a decade.
And Cuomo said opposition to the bridge because it won’t have rapid transit for bus and rail is misguided, saying it would double the bridge’s $5 billion cost.
“To put in a bus system now for Rockland County and Westchester would roughly double the cost, from $5 billion to $10 billion – and that is a significant increase and one that I believe is not advisable at this time,” Cuomo told reporters today.
Cuomo’s comments are the latest in what has been an indirect back and forth with the county executives in Westchester and Rockland counties, in particular Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, who is considered a possible GOP candidate to challenge Cuomo in 2014.
Astorino has said in recent days that rapid transit is not critical for the bridge’s initial construction. He said yesterday he’s pleased that the bridge will have dedicated bus lanes.
But Astorino has yet to be give his approval of the project, and he is holding back his vote on a regional transportation committee until he gets more answers on the bridge’s scope.
“I don’t think it was an outlandish request to get some information before I have to vote on such a huge project,” Astorino said.
His consternation is apparently not sitting well with the second floor. Astorino appeared on Fred Dicker’s radio show to defend his position— which once did include a request to have mass transit on the bridge. And Astorino’s appearance was followed by Larry Schwartz, Cuomo’s top aide and now the point person on the project.
Cuomo said he’s not sure what more information anyone would need on the project. State officials said there have been 500 meetings about the new bridge over the past decade and 150 different alternatives.
“The bridge is not the issue. The bridge is going to have capacity for rail and capacity for bus,” Cuomo said. “It’s not about the bridge. It’s about building a bus system in Rockland and a bus system in Westchester.”
And Cuomo said any additional cost for the bridge or mass transit would add to the tolls—which are undoubtedly expected to increase when a new bridge is built, although Cuomo has yet to say that.
“Obviously, the basic source of financing would be the tolls,” Cuomo explained. “So the bulk of the financing will come from the tolls, and that’s why whatever the cost of the bridge is, whatever you add on, is going to be financed by the tolls.”