EPA Cuts Loan Sought for New NY Bridge Project

Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency said no to most of a no- and low- interest $511 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF) – to be disbursed in two parcels – that the state eyed for its bridge project.

Aerial view fr Westchester/Credit: NYS Thruway Authority

Aerial view fr Westchester/Credit: NYS Thruway Authority

“EPA has concluded that five of the twelve Tappan Zee Bridge-related projects as proposed, totaling $29.1 million, are eligible  . . . and that seven of the twelve projects as proposed, totaling $481.8 million, are not eligible for CWSRF funding,” EPA Region 2 Clean Water Division Director Joan Leary Matthews wrote in a letter dated September 16.

These will be omitted from the Intended Use Plan (IUP). Meantime, EFC continues to fund other necessary projects.

Matthews’ 13-page letter to NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation President and CEO Matthew J. Driscoll, and DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens (who also chairs the facilities board) dated September 16 is here (www.epa.gov/region2/tappanzeeletter.pdf).

“Construction progress on the New NY Bridge project will not be affected in any way by the EPA Region II action,’ Thruway Executive Director Thomas J. Madison assured via a statement today. “The project remains on budget and on schedule and, as we’ve said all along, the intent is to pay for the new bridge using any potential increases above current toll rates at the bridge – not system-wide Thruway toll revenues.”

Signs informing drivers of toll plaza lanes/Courtesy of Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

Signs informing drivers of toll plaza lanes/Courtesy of Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

A source associated with the topic mused, “The payment of $3.142 billion to TZC is already committed, so there can be no savings there, and it is hard to see shaving much from the balance up to the total of $3.9 billion as much of that is needed to track TZC as it does its job.”

So the money will come from somewhere. Now might be a good time to launch the toll and financing task force. “When it gets underway, the committee will examine a range of funding sources, including tolls,” the source said.

At the Thruway Authority’s August 6 meeting, Chairman Howard P. Milstein noted some legislators “think there’s a surplus of $4 billion, and (that it) should be used for the bridge,” citing the $3.3 billion New York State is set to receive from a recent record settlement with France’s largest bank that will be added to its general fund.

Why not? PACB Budget Director Bob Megna had said he’ll “move as hard as he can to get the money moved to infrastructure like the Tappan Zee Bridge.”

eligible projects

Critics opposed to the governor’s plan were pleased.

“(Hudson) Riverkeeper said this loan wouldn’t pass federal review and sure enough, the EPA has struck almost all of it down,” President Paul Gallay said. “Good for them. Now, the state needs to take the half billion dollars it tried to loan to itself for the bridge and spend it properly – on the state’s crumbling wastewater infrastructure.”

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (92nd AD), who represents the Tarrytown side of the bridge, applauded the EPA “for rendering a common-sense interpretation of the law” and chided the state for “hiding the true cost of the project in an environmental fund” dedicated elsewhere.

In late June, the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) decided by unanimous (5 to 0) vote to loan the Thruway Authority $511.45 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF). And in July, three voting members of the PACB agreed to its request for half of the $511 million.

EFC Director of Public Information Jon Sorensen responded, “While this loan is not integral to the overall bridge construction, the projects identified here will clearly provide significant benefits for the Hudson River Estuary. EPA Region II is simply wrong in its assessment. We will appeal this decision.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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