Gov. Cuomo's 'Robert Moses Wish List' Continues to Grow—But Where's the Payment Plan?

The New York governor continues his tour of New York, promoting his big ticket capital agenda, yet not suggesting any means to pay for them. Worse yet, he restricts new funding options, like increased tolls, adding costs to the transportation budget.
January 8, 2016, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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As posted on Jan. 6, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on Long Island on Tuesday to promote his "2nd Proposal of his 2016 Agenda," which included a list of hefty transportation capital projects sure to please Long Island residents, including:

  • A  9.8 mile-long third track on the LIRR mainline between Floral Park and Hicksville 
  • A new tunnel to Connecticut (or the Bronx or Westchester County)

On Wednesday morning he was in Syracuse where he "proposed spending $22 billion to improve state roads and bridges," writes Emma G. Fitzsimmons of The New York Times.

The announcement came several months after Mr. Cuomo pledged $8 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s [MTA] capital plan. State Senate leaders have said that any agreement over the capital plan, which pays for improvements to New York City’s subway system and commuter rail, must include strong funding for roads and bridges.

As part of his "5th Proposal for his 2016 Agenda," Cuomo "announced that he wanted to freeze tolls on the Tappan Zee Bridge and the New York State Thruway until 2020," writes Fitzsimmons. "He suggested the state spend $700 million to keep tolls on the Thruway at their current level."

Freezing Tappan Zee Bridge tolls would tie the hands of a task force "created last year to make recommendations for possible toll increases on the new bridge." The bridge is set to to open in 2018.

Fitzsimmons wrote last November "that tolls on the Tappan Zee would not increase in 2016, but that the seven-member panel would issue toll recommendations for the new bridge by the middle of next year." The Thruway Authority, hit by recent resignations, has yet to "publicly disclose plans for how it will pay for the new Tappan Zee Bridge," according to Bloomberg Business article last November.

Further cutting into the state transportation budget is a proposal to reduce the taxes for frequent Thruway travelers by including "a tax credit that would cut the annual toll costs for frequent passenger and commercial (those based in New York) travelers in half," writes the Times Union'Matthew Hamilton. "The threshold, he said, would be roughly $50 to $60 in tolls per year for frequent passenger car travelers."

Any guesses where the governor was on Wednesday afternoon? Downstate at Madison Square Garden atop of Penn Station, though I doubt he spent 5-6 hours on Amtrak to get there from Syracuse. Fitzsimmons covered the event with Charles V. Bagli. Along with the modernization of Penn Station, Cuomo unveiled plans that "include new air and rail terminals, new transit stations and a Hudson River rail tunnel, as 'the biggest construction program in our state’s history,'"

Hamilton of Times Union also writes about the governor's "7th Proposal of his 2016 Agenda: Dramatic Expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Center," costing $1 billion.

Hat tips to Mayer Horn via University of Minnesota Congestion Pricing Listserv and Mark Boshnack.

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Published on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 in The New York Times
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