The state Thruway Authority today said there are no plans to use revenue from the the 570-mile toll road to fund a new Tappan Zee Bridge in the Hudson Valley.
“There are no plans for other Thruway users to pay for the New NY Bridge,” Thruway spokesman Dan Weiller said.
How the bridge will be funded gained more scrutiny in recent days after the state secured a $1.6 billion federal loan last week to build the new bridge between Rockland and Westchester counties.
The Thruway Authority last week said that the low-interest loan from the federal highway department and bonding through the agency would cover the bridge’s $3.9 billion cost.
Some upstate business groups said they are concerned that Thruway tolls will increase to fund the bridge, one of the largest construction projects in the country. They beat back a proposed 45 percent toll increase on truck traffic last year.
State officials last week that the final funding plan for the bridge has not been decided. But state officials said today that Thruway revenue — already struggling to meet growing costs and declining traffic — won’t be tapped to fund the new bridge.
Construction of the three-mile span started last month, and it is expected to be finished by 2018. The state hasn’t said how much tolls would increase on the new bridge; the current toll is $5 roundtrip.
Thruway Authority executive director Thomas Madison told reporters Thursday that getting the low-interest loan through the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act will provide a better sense of funding for the bridge.
But at the time he didn’t indicate whether the Thruway’s operations could cover a part of the bridge’s cost.
“Now that we have TIFIA certainty and we understand what numbers and what terms and variables to pull in, we’ll be finalizing our plan of finance for the project,” Madison said Thursday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also urged caution over how the bridge will be financed. Cuomo said the state has a task force looking at ways to fund the bridge.
The state’s Thruway system is the longest toll-supported highway in the nation, and it has had troubled finances.
Last month, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the Thruway, citing uncertainty over the bridge’s finances.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has been critical of the Thruway’s management. He said the Thruway should detail how it’s going to pay for the bridge.
The Thruway has raised tolls four times since 2005, and a consultant’s report last year suggested another increase may be needed in 2015.
“Securing the federal loan to pay for a portion of this project was a huge step,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Now the Thruway Authority must live up to its commitment to provide the public with a complete financing plan that identifies projected tolls and protects the long-term stability of the Thruway system.”