Thruway Board Unanimously Says “Yes” to Interest-Free Loan for New NY Bridge Project

Yesterday, the Thruway Authority unanimously approved a $255.7 million interest-free loan from the state Environmental Facilities Corporation’s clean water loan fund to help finance the new bridge.

Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Severin St. Martin

Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Severin St. Martin

Half of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s original $511 amount, the money was initially intended for statewide clean water projects like sewage treatment.

“All the project elements articulated were developed during the early phase of the project, (during) environmental review,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison said. Pursuit of the EFC loan “wasn’t even contemplated. Some think it’s a financial gimmick. It’s a prudent and innovative approach to look at all possibilities.”

Critics challenged the idea, and claimed it set a dangerous precedent with lasting dire consequences.

“This loan misappropriates funding that Congress provided to fix New York’s aging water infrastructure and restore the health of our rivers,” Hudson Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said after the decision was announced.

Bridge construction activities — dredging, pile driving, design and engineering work — “do not meet the legal standard for the Clean Water Act loan program” for implementing the adopted plan for Hudson River estuary restoration to quality for funding,” Gallay said.

Not surprisingly, he said, EPA is reviewing this loan and can disallow it.

Riverkeeper will be right in the middle that fight, rwhich is where our members rightly expect us to be, whenever government action runs this far afoul of the environmental laws designed to protect the Hudson River.”

“We are mindful of concerns raised,” Thruway Chairman Howard P. Milstein said in a statement. “The Thruway Authority remains committed to an unprecedented level of environmental protection on the New NY Bridge project.”

Courtesy of the Westchester County Archives

Courtesy of the Westchester County Archives

Milstein said the loans will save $35 million in finance costs, and ‘will also help keep tolls on the new bridge as low as possible.”

Last December, the project was awarded an historic $1.6 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan, the largest in its history, which is limited to 33 percent of total project costs.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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