Archive for the ‘Metropolitan Transportation Authority’ Category

Guest Blog: Residents Needn’t Pay for Government Failures

By Congressional Candidate Chris Day

The new Tappan Zee Bridge is, by all accounts, a needed project. The current one is past its lifespan, was never designed to handle the substantial truck traffic it now sees, can barely accommodate rush hour traffic, and has no mass transportation options.

Courtesy of Maritime Construction Depot

Courtesy of Maritime Construction Depot

Fortunately, many years after it should have been done, action was finally taken to begin construction on the new bridge. That, unfortunately, is the only good news thus far.

This regional asset, one of if not the single biggest American infrastructure projects of the last 25 years, was left to local taxpayers to fund. Billions of dollars to create a bridge to handle the interstate traffic headed between New England and the Mid-Atlantic region, and all the Federal government could manage was a loan for its construction – a loan that must be repaid by New Yorkers. This is the same Federal government, mind you, that bankrolled a Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska to the tune of several hundred million dollars.

This failure by the Federal government, and our Congresswoman, who brags about the loan yet voted for the Bridge to Nowhere, to secure funding has left New York State scrambling and Rockland and Westchester residents and commuters suffering.

There is no money now for mass transportation across the bridge – not Bus Rapid Transit, not train, nothing. So much for building an infrastructure on which economic growth can take place, I suppose.

Beyond that failure, we now face tolls potentially as high as $15 – three times their current rate. That means thousands of dollars out of the pockets of local commuters, increased costs for local businesses, and a strong disincentive for folks to travel between the two counties or for new residents to move to Rockland.

We need action now to fix this problem before potential tolls become actual tolls. Albany must immediately cap the toll for Rockland and Westchester residents at its current level – something they have already done for Staten Island residents on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, so it is not some hypothetical pipe dream.

Second, we need help from Congress to where they failed to help before – grant money towards public transportation across the new bridge. By filling that gap in service, it will at least partially make up for their utter inability to bring funding initially.

We need effective representation that will stand up and assert the regional importance of this bridge. As a commuter myself, I know the costs of commuting and the massive impact on a household budget that this toll increase would bring – and I know that Rockland County in particular needs more options for commuters.

Rockland and Westchester residents should not have to pay for Washington and Albany’s failures – for our Congresswoman’s failures. It’s up to you to make that point to your representatives now and this November.

New City resident Chris Day, son of Rockland County Executive Ed Day, is a candidate for the 17th Congressional District (www.voteforday.com)

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Guest Blog: Don’t Hold Residents Hostage via Tolls

By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

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 make a recipe for disaster, especially when we are speaking about a bridge whose shelf life is ending.

Tappan Zee Bridge toll plaza/Courtesy of Jack Thomas

Tappan Zee Bridge toll plaza/Courtesy of Jack Thomas

I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership in jump-starting a critically-needed project; however, why must we buy into the entire platform of “logic” offered regarding the potential bridge tolls and regional toll comparisons?

The proposed $14 toll for the new crossing stunned everyone, and is unacceptable. We need to understand the likely impact of a toll increase on our citizens and local business. In addition to the added cost crunch of getting to work, I believe we will be driving away substantial business from the Palisades Center Mall, which provides nearly 25 percent of all sales tax revenue to our county.

We must acknowledge that a significant number of Westchester residents will choose not to spend $14 to come here, and will instead patronize the new Ridge Hill complex in Yonkers. This is a critical Rockland economic issue that has not been adequately discussed.

We’re told, “Well, we have to pay for it.” Fair enough; there is no such thing as a free lunch. But this bridge is a major component of the Thruway system; why isn’t the cost spread across the entire system? Why are toll dollars collected at the Tappan Zee crossing used for projects across the Thruway? Why is Rockland, the smallest county in the state, bearing the brunt of the entire cost?

And let us explode the myth of what truly is an “apples and oranges” comparison: “Well, the toll will be similar to the Port Authority’s GW Bridge and MTA’s New York City bridges.” This is nonsense and a pure, yet convenient, distraction.

A significant portion of tolls collected at Port Authority crossings support their real estate costs — such as the World Trade Center — and their interests in Stewart International Airport. The lion’s share of tolls collected at New York City bridges (MTA crossings) support the NYC Subway System. Unlike these two agencies, the Thruway Authority, which realizes 94 percent of its revenue from vehicular tolls, has only one major outside cost factor — the New York State Canal System, whose 524-mile inland waterway spans upstate New York!

Yes, your tolls are going to support the waterways of the northernmost section of this State. Why? Because in 1992, our illustrious New York State Legislature successfully transferred funding responsibility from General Funds to the better-hidden approach — using revenues collected by tolls on the Thruway.

In 2006, Governor Pataki proposed recreating the Canal Corporation by 2010 as an independent agency, no longer overseen by the Thruway Authority. Two years later, NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s highly-critical audit offered similar recommendations for divesting Canal operations.

Why are Tappan Zee toll dollars paying for Thruway system-wide projects? What logic explains having a separate NY Bridge Authority draining toll revenue from the Thruway Authority?

It is my opinion that the bridge project is a golden opportunity to improve the entire funding structure of the Thruway. Let’s start by funding the upstate Canal system through the general fund or a separate authority. Merge the two highway authorities into one, bringing additional revenue to the Thruway and reducing cost to drivers.

In the final analysis, I believe the true challenge is to take advantage of the obvious opportunity for government to do things smarter and leaner, and at the same time, to do right by residents of Rockland and the lower Hudson Valley.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day is a member of the Mass Transit Task Force charged with finding county-specific and regional solutions.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

How To Get There From Here

The morning couldn’t have been more perfect for a drive in the country — cool temps outside, clear sky, and a gorgeous view as I crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge. I switched lanes because the car wheels were thumping over the seams; not for much longer. Caroline Corley’s show was on 107.1 The Peak, and the music suited my mood.

Would that I could have driven past Exit 14B and further into the mountains. Dutifully, I turned off the New York State Thruway and onto Airmont Road, where my cousins live, and made then another turn to Executive Boulevard. It was the fifth meeting of the Mass Transit Task Force, and I was driving with The Peak. It was all good.

I walked in wondering, What is the budget for transit? If I want to buy something, I start with a dollar amount in mind and try to find something within that amount.  Or do I use my credit card, and then worry about how to pay for my purchase?

“It’s best to talk about financing options, rather than talk about transit objectives and back into a discussion about finance,” task force co-chair and New York State Thruway executive director Thomas Madison said at the onset.

The group was briefed on state and federal transit funding means, and talked about current transit funding in Westchester and Rockland Counties. If I was on the task force, what would I say or do?

It would depend upon the group I represented — do I want a light rail system in the corridor? How about a personal rapid transit system (like The Sky Loop Committee [SLC], which I discovered while looking for something akin to the George Jetson mode of transport)?

Per Skyloop.org: “We seek to implement an effective and advanced elevated transit system to link together the downtown and riverfront areas of Cincinnati, Ohio, Covington and Newport, Kentucky. The Sky Loop will greatly enhance this central urban venue and will help propel our metropolitan region forward into the 21st Century.”

One option was a ferry. Metropolitan Transportation Authority director of special project development and planning William Wheeler said the idea of a ferry “is not as easy as it sounds.”

It has to be subsidized and needs riders, Wheeler said.

I might try it. What if commuters decided (after a certain number of trips) that they’d rather take a bus? Is the river predictable? Can a ferry handle the volume of commuters? Would it save time for its passengers?

Everything begins with an idea. “If you think it’s the right plan, plow ahead,” Wheeler said. “There’s no guarantee you’ll get the funding you need or not.”

There’s also a chance the group will.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

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