ALBANY – The federal government Tuesday rejected most of the Cuomo administration’s bid to use $511 million from a clean water fund for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, a decision that has implications for Thruway tolls across the entire state.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s rejection of all but $30 million in funding from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund highlighted criticism of the project over the Cuomo administration’s failure as yet to release a detailed financial plan for covering the costs of the $3.9 billion bridge project.
The EPA’s decision to deny most of the funding was greeted with enthusiasm by environmentalists, who had accused the administration of inappropriately raiding a fund dedicated to clean water improvements.
Representatives of Thruway users said the EPA rejection brings renewed attention to the fact that the state is proceeding with bridge construction without releasing a financial plan on how it will be funded and how the cost will affect users of the Thruway or the bridge. The Tappan Zee Bridge, which crosses the Hudson River, is part of the Thruway system.
When asked if tolls systemwide could increase as a result of the rejection of the federal loan, John Corlett, legislative committee chair of AAA New York State responded: “I think one can draw that conclusion, yeah,” said.
A trade group that represents truck companies said worries about future toll hikes are increasing.
“With or without that loan, we’re concerned about pressure on system-wide tolls,” said Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association.
Hems noted that the clean water funding the EPA rejected was going to have to be repaid by the Thruway Authority anyway.
“At the end of the day, the money they need for the Tappan Zee is the money they need for the Tappan Zee, with or without that loan,” she said.
“Truthfully, the bigger concern is a lack of a public financing plan. They’re making all these decisions … with absolutely no indication of how they’re going to pay for it,” Hems said.
Cuomo's building a $3.9 billion dollar bridge without saying where most of the money to pay for the bridge is coming from.
You know toll hikes are coming, and given the cost of the bridge, they're going to be big.
I ride the PATH every day, and we have one more fare hike coming after Cuomo and Christie got together to engineer toll and fare hikes on Port Authority entities so that they could use the money for the World Trade Center boondoggle down in lower Manhattan.
Cuomo will do the same here, only unlike with the Port Authority hikes, where he had some political cover and didn't take any political hit for the increases, this time around, Cuomo's out there all alone.
When the toll hikes come on the Thruway - and they will - Cuomo will own them:
Cuomo has pushed the Tappan Zee project not only as necessary for transportation but as a symbol of how his administration can get things done more quickly than past governors.
Cuomo's getting this bridge built very fast, that's for sure.
So fast, no one knows where the money's coming from.