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'New' TZ Bridge: Facts, Fallacies and Expectations

Let’s get off this political merry-go-round and detail the facts, not the excuses, surrounding the true cost to build and maintain the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

To be clear, and as I have maintained for years, the construction of a new Tappan Zee bridge is critical to the health, safety, and economics of our County. Too much talk and too little action is a recipe for disaster, especially when we are speaking about a bridge whose shelf life is coming to an end. But does that mean we need to blindly accept what is being dished out to this community, particularly as it relates to the cost … and who is going to pay for it.

The proposed $14 toll for the new crossing stunned everyone. Our County Executive’s reported response to the $14 per trip toll for the new Tappan Zee Bridge is “It sounds very expensive. The hope is that it doesn’t go higher.”

My response? – “Unacceptable”. And here’s why.

We need to understand the likely impact of this toll increase on our citizens and local business. In addition to the added cost crunch that you and I will share in simply getting to work, it is my view that we will be driving away substantial business from the one entity that provides nearly 25% of all sales tax revenue to our County – the Palisades Center Mall. We have to acknowledge that a significant number of Westchester residents will not choose to spend $14 to come to Rockland, but rather head over to Westchester’s new regional shopping destination - The Ridge Hill complex in Yonkers. This is a critical Rockland economic issue that has not been adequately discussed.

I choose to question the entire platform of “logic” being offered and urge my neighbors to do the same. Do not buy into the “cost and comparison” arguments being offered.

We are being told “well, we have to pay for it”. OK, fair enough – there is no such thing as a free lunch. But as this bridge is a major component of the entirety of the Thruway system, why is the cost of ensuring its integrity not being spread across the entirety of the system? Why is it that Rockland, the smallest county in the State, is slated to bear the brunt of the entire cost?

And while we are talking about the $5 billion price tag, we are still waiting for a response to the very well researched story by a local print media outlet that establishes the cost of similar spans coming in at UNDER $1 billion. Included are Tampa’s Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge; South Carolina’s Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge; and Louisiana’s John James Audubon Bridge. Even when one factors in inflation and the higher cost of construction here in New York, FIVE times the cost demands a complete response by the planners.  

Finally, the true “apples and oranges” comparison of “well the toll will be similar to the Port Authority’s G.W. Bridge and MTA’s NYC bridges” needs to be exposed for the nonsense it is. Let’s get off this political merry-go-round and detail the facts, not excuses.

A significant portion of vehicular tolls collected at Port Authority crossings go to supporting their real estate costs, such as the World Trade Center, and their interests in Stewart International Airport. With respect to the NYC bridges, the lion share of toll collections at these MTA crossings have gone to the NYC Subway System. Much unlike these two agencies, the New York State Thruway Authority, who realizes 94% of its revenue from vehicle tolls, has only one major outside cost factor – the New York State Canal System and its 524-mile inland waterway that spans upstate New York! Yes, you heard that correctly – your tolls are going to support the waterways of the northernmost section of this State. Why? Our illustrious NYS Legislature’s successful effort in 1992 to transfer the cost out of the General Funds funding responsibility to the better hidden funding approach of using revenues collected by tolls on the New York State Thruway. 

In May 2006, Governor Pataki proposed recreating the Canal Corporation by 2010 as an independent agency no longer under the oversight of the Thruway Authority. In January 2008, NYS Comptroller DiNapoli highly critical audit offered similar recommendations of the divesting of Canal operations.

My position? Let’s get some accurate answers as to the obvious questions as to the actual cost of building the new Tappan Zee Bridge, and return your toll dollars to the Thruway system by returning the funding for the waterways of New York State to the General Fund. It is bad enough that we already were lied to when the promise of “no more tolls when the bonds were paid off” was broken in 1996. Demand that our State officials sharpen their pencil on the new bridge construction cost; stop the funding of the canal system with your toll dollars by following the sound advice offered already; and recognize the disparate economic impact upon Rockland as the plan is detailed now.  Do the hard work necessary to build it right and to fund it properly, for as much as this bridge needs to be built, that should not be an excuse to hose the people of Rockland County.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

stephany August 06, 2012 at 06:01 PM
this is a repeat test My guess this is probably right, but what is the FUND part http://www.clarkstowntaxpayers.com/node/49 TALKING POINTS POLICE BUDGET - Objective: Reduce the Police Budget - The 2010 Police Budget: a) $29.9 million, without Benefits. With Benefits it would be around $37 - 38 million or 34% of the "Fund" part of the town budget given the recent raises and the pretty much stagnant budget I am going to guess police will soon be 40% of the town tax- assuming it isn't already testing testing ITDontK where did you get your facts--please link police also have their own pension fund. one difference being no age requirement
Watchdog August 06, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Why is it that every time someone mentions the burden of outrageous salaries and benefits that we cannot afford you interpret it as cop bashing? We have the highest paid police force INTHE NATION. The police chief makes 25% more than the NYC PoliceCommissioner andmorethan the Secretary of defense. On average each cop costs $200,000 a copy. THEY WORK LESS THAN HALF THE YEAR...179 days out of 365. They get 81 days off.  30 vacation ( some get 35 days) 24 sick days - are you that much of a sickly group of people? 8 bereavement- Hiw many times does Aunt Fanny die? 12holidays 7 personal The police budget consumes over 25% of the Clarkstown Town Budget for what? A couple of hundred people? You have absolutely no idea the burden you place on the seniors who built this Town....or is it that you just don't give a crap? You got yours!!!
John Taggart August 06, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Mr Day, With the size of this project and the large number of long term construction jobs that go with this "shovel ready" project, why hasen't any federal funding or grant money been put to it ? Considering the palisades center mall is still very young and provides so much tax revenue to the county, how did the county manage to spend every penny + 100 million it didn't have ? You guys ever hear of a rainy day fund ?
Rockland County Legislator Ed Day August 06, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Hi John - As I understand it, the project was submitted for federal funding and denied. I presume the State will resubmit. That will come form the governor's office. With respect to the financial condition of the County, I am sure you are aware that I have done what I could do as one legislator ... and then some ... to deal with the missteps taken over the past few years. I would also suggest that you pose that question to both the County Executive who has "projected" those sales tax numbers inaccurately for a number of years, and the legislative leadership who have supported these budgets. It is called being outvoted! For more info in support of that, I would simply direct you to my response second from the top of this thread (my reply to Mike Hull). Thanks for your comment; am now off to coaching our New City Rams practice!
Jack Moolick August 06, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Michael Hull, with due respect for your fine contributions to PATCH and your activism on important issues of the day, I must take exception to your criticism of Ed Days commentary on the TZ Bridge. It seems to me, as Mr. Day has said, that the cost of the bridge should be borne more by the Thruway system overall since it indeed is a key component of the Thruway. It was an eye opener for me, and probably most people, to learn from Ed Day, that The Canal system is also being supported by Thruway tolls, which I believe is unfair and quite frankly, outrageous. Suggesting that properly allocating costs for the bridge over its system, instead of burdening mostly local users, is akin to the County irresponsibly and probably illegally down streaming its road and other costs to the Town is frankly, an unfair comparison. Your comment about the cost of police services is right on target; I too believe these costs are way out of line for a Town of our size but this is not under the purview of Mr.Day or the County, except of course if you include certain aspects of the Sheriffs department, such as traffic patrol which seem to be duplicative and unnecessary. Oh, and the horses.
Jack Moolick August 06, 2012 at 11:06 PM
cont"d As to the cost of the bridge, Mr. Day is right on target citing the costs of other bridges. Considering the 287 debacle overseen by NYS, it is easy to see how these costs can get out of line ,even more so if you start with a high number. However, I do not see the tie in between these costs and the cost of the police, particularly in Clarkstown, and since his commentary was about the bridge, It is probably not the appropriate venue for you or him to comment about these other issues. I do agree however that all local politicians should weigh in on all local issues, including the egregious cost of police in Clarkstown and perhaps Mr. Day will offer his opinion at some time in the future. However I do thank him for being the single voice in the Legislature who has taken time to research this very important issue and offer this very important commentary to all concerned taxpayers, local or not. He should be commended and not admonished.
John Taggart August 06, 2012 at 11:53 PM
GO RAMS !
Rockland County Legislator Ed Day August 07, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Thank you, John!!
Bob Rohr August 07, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Mr. Day, I understand your concern. " I am convinced that a rail component across the TZ is more of a benefit to Orange County and we will mostly be the conduit for that. We have to recognize that could change the character of the entire County, as transportation centers, higher density housing, and demands for services would have a tremendous impact on Rockland as we know it.". That issue should be addressed now by your Towns upzoning which they should be doing now to protect your lovely landscape and limit your services. Westchester missed the boat on this. Unless Chris Christie changes his mind your only access across the Hudson is PATH. It is a shame since the Metro North tracks are at the end of the Bridge.
Michael N. Hull August 07, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Jack Thank you for that very detailed comment and I accept your critique of my comment. I am a great supporter of Ed Day and he knows that. So it is a friend speaking to a friend. I want Ed to speak up more on the local issues but having said that I must accept your points as Ed has so graciously accepted mine. Best Wishes Michael
Mike August 07, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Interesting that each one of the bridges you reference are in right to work states. Could that be the comon denominator as to why it costs so much less in these states?
INTHEKNOW August 07, 2012 at 05:10 AM
The Metro North tracks are hundreds of feet below the bridge. How do you propose a train on a bridge crossing the Tappan Zee to get down to the river level?
Mystery Man August 07, 2012 at 10:04 AM
The $14.00 toll was mentioned months ago on News12 as a way to possibly help pay for the bridge so I don't understand why it comes as such a shock. I believe the cost should be picked up by the people who use it the most, not taxpayer who rarely uses it. No one forced people the move to the other side of the bridge. As far as shopping goes, we have plenty of shopping centers here in Westchester and it would help our economy here as opposed to Rockland.
Watchdog August 07, 2012 at 10:16 AM
Do you think it is possible that some people were born on " the other side if the bridge" and did not move there? I guess it depends which side you live on. For me the "other side" is your side and not mine.
Mike August 07, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Ok, then stop charging me a tax for NYC subway and busses
MitchP August 07, 2012 at 12:15 PM
If there are 17 county legislators, why is it we only ever seem to hear from Ed Day? Where are the other 16 county legislators, and for that matter what are our State Senator and Assemblyman up to (Carlucci and Zebrowski)? What are they doing in Albany to ensure Rockland residents don't shoulder the bulk of these likely inflated costs of the new bridge? I've heard anecdotaly $5 billion gets spent in our Afghanistan in a few days but there's not enough money in the national budget to build a bridge that supports a vital economic corridor.
Walt August 07, 2012 at 12:36 PM
If NY's 29 Electoral votes were still in play instead of already firmly going for obama, the fed would be throwing money at this project from their private trillion dollar stimulus fund.
Watchdog August 07, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Vanderhoefs comments were even more telling " Gee, that seems high, I HOPE it does not go higher" How did this man Vanderhoef EVER get elected to ANY office? And where are Cornell and Shoenberger? You are correct. Ed Day seems to be the only one willing to stick his neck out ....the only one exhibiting the qualities of leadership.
Watchdog August 07, 2012 at 01:29 PM
ONLY 6% of the OBAMA Triillion dollar stimulus went to infrastructure projects, rest went to shore up municipal budgets and public unions.
Watchdog August 07, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Adrian, you have to put a good deal of the blame for the Destruction of Rockland on Vinny Reda and his Mini Me Ed Lettre. We just do not have a two party system in the County and recent efforts to correct it have been twarted by Reda. It is amazing how much damage can be done by just one mans decisions to control the Party and thus destroy any semblance of a fair elective process. Vanderhoef! Redas boy,not only looks and scts like he is in a fog, his decisions and phony budgets destroyed Rockland and we may never recover. I hope Ed Day decides to run for County Executive. He is a lone voice offering the possibility of a return to the Rockland that we all once knew.
Walt August 07, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Even more troubling is where are our US Congress Reps? I doubt Engel could point to Rockland County on a map but and since he will no longer be "representing" us because of the redrawn congressional districts he cares even less then he did over the last 4 years and Lowey will not do anything because Rockland isn't her district yet. Why can't these self serving, career politicians get some of our stimulus money to help pay for this bridge?
Cadeyrn August 07, 2012 at 04:40 PM
The Dems don't care because this state is owned by them.
Paul Feiner August 07, 2012 at 05:21 PM
hope you can attend the meeting I"m planning at Greenburgh Town Hall on Aug 15 at 7: pm. Your input and help is appreciated. Greenburgh Town Hall is located at 177 Hillside Ave. From Rockland take 287 east. get off at exit 4. make a left at the exit. Right at traffic light (Old Tarrytown Road). The town hall is at the end of othe street.
Watchdog August 07, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Cadeyn, sometime I attempt to get into the head of people whovotefor politicians like Shumer , Lowy and Engel but I just cannot figure it out and I give up. Here we had a huge $5 billion shovel ready project and the ability to finance at least part of it by a $TRILLION DOLLAR $stimulus project toutedby all four of those politicians mentioned and it DIDNOT happen. And it seems to be OK with people who will vote them and Obama in again. It is beyond mind boggling.
Rockland County Legislator Ed Day August 07, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Thank you, gentlemen.
Aidan August 07, 2012 at 08:14 PM
"Why can't these self serving, career politicians get some of our stimulus money to help pay for this bridge?" Rhetorical, right?
Watchdog August 07, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Aiden, when Schumer and Gillibrand heard we needed money for the the bridge, they said that they would release their tax return (s) and that would satisfy the voters. They are probably right since we live in New York.
John Taggart August 07, 2012 at 08:54 PM
This was the perfect shovel ready job.
Watchdog August 11, 2012 at 11:43 PM
I understand the meeting was cancelled. I guess you trust Cuomo. I don't.
Orlando Alberto Franklin August 18, 2012 at 01:12 AM
why is there an urgency to build this bridge? especially in a bad economy...mostly contractors outside the county are doing most of the work on the bridge if not outside contractors...republicans are feasting on this lol...the folks in nyack view being block or value for homes being lost....a big joke

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