Archive for the ‘US Department of Transportation’ Category

No TZB Fare Hike in 2016; Toll Task Force in Place

Discounts ahead for local residents, commuters?/Rani Levi

Discounts ahead for local residents, commuters?/Rani Levi

For the sixth consecutive year tolls, including the bridge, will remain unchanged, Thruway Authority Executive Director Robert Megna told its Board yesterday.

“Given our success in balancing the Thruway’s budget and the infusion of additional funding from Governor Cuomo, we have alleviated the need to implement a toll increase for the remainder of 2015 and for all of 2016,” Megna said.

Contributing are a $1.285 billion boost to the Thruway Stabilization Fund — $750 million to the bridge project — included in the 2015-16 state budget, and the $1.6 billion TIFIA loan signed in December 2013.

The agency said independent traffic engineering forecasts “include significant upward revisions from the previous forecast submitted in May 2015. The 2016 budget forecast shows a traffic growth of 3.4 million vehicles or 1.3 percent above 2015.” More vehicles (259.3 million) equal more revenue.

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.

More news: the toll advisory task force is now a reality and has until mid-2016 to brainstorm toll reviews, potential commuter discount options, a resident discount program and commercial vehicle rates. Governor Cuomo spoke about a resident discount early on; I’ve always felt commercial vehicles using the bridge deserve to pay more.

Megna and state Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll will co-chair the group, which will meet monthly, ask for public input and report its findings in mid-2016.

Albany mayor Gerald D. Jennings; Matthew Rand, managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens, Rand Realty, Rand Commercial Services and Hudson United Home Services; former state Department of Transportation commissioner Joan McDonald; Lawrence C. Salley, Chairman of the White Plains Housing Authority and former Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Transportation; and former NYC comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

Newly named Executive Project Engineer Jamey Barbas, P.E. has more than 30 years of experience in bridge management, design, construction and inspection with a special emphasis on complex and long span bridges. Project Manager Peter Sanderson will analyze critical issues associated with construction phases.

The website has a new look. I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Double Trucks’ Fares on the New NY Bridge

Instead of discounting trucks that will cross the new bridge between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., I suggest they pay double fares from the get go. How will allowing trucks a free ride ease traffic if there’s an accident at 4:30 a.m., or at any hour?

June 2011 Thruway accident details and photo credit: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/gallery?id=8187201&photo=1

June 2011 Thruway accident details and photo credit: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/gallery?id=8187201&photo=1

Nyack resident Michael Bookman claims, “Fewer trucks on the highways and bridges during the day means reduced congestion, which means reduced emissions and people getting to work faster, which means increased economic productivity.”

Not if they’re speeding. Some do, and at way more than 65 miles per hour. While Thruway speed limit is that north of here, we’re talking about Westchester and Rockland Counties. Connected by the Tappan Zee Bridge. In sometimes-hazardous conditions due to weather.

How many times have you been on I-287 in the fast lane, and a truck speeds past you in the middle lane? C’mon. It happens, often.

Per the Thruway Fact Book: “The Thruway is a vital commercial link for New York’s largest cities and for the entire Northeast. About one-third of all vehicles using the Thruway are from out of state.”

AND

“The Thruway is strictly a user-supported System. Only those who travel the Thruway pay for it. The Thruway Authority receives no State tax dollars and is therefore dependent on toll revenues to operate, maintain and police its roads and bridges. These revenues also allow the Thruway Authority to provide a superior level of maintenance with its Snow-And-Ice Control Program.”

It’s not new news. The state needs to find alternate sources of revenue (translated: new money) to pay for this bridge. I’ve attended the past year’s Mass Transit Task Force meetings (open to the public) and heard nothing about commercial vehicles using the bridge.

“In Westchester County, the Thruway connects the Connecticut Turnpike at the terminus of its New England Section (I-95) in Port Chester. In Rockland County, Interstate 287 near Suffern connects with major highways in New Jersey, including the Garden State Parkway at the New Jersey-New York line in Chestnut Ridge (although no trucks are allowed on the GSP in NJ).”

No free rides for trucks. Especially for out-of-state trucks.

I’m glad Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested giving local residents a fare break, whether or not they commute daily. And while the 45% toll hike for trucks won’t happen on the 570-mile Thruway, I feel commercial vehicles deserve to pay more – at least on the new bridge.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Bridge Business: Record-breaking Loan Approved for TZ Project

Special Project Advisor Brian Conybeare  PHOTO CREDIT: Kathy Kahn

Special Project Advisor Brian Conybeare/Photo: Kathy Kahn

News broke about the state’s historic $1.6 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for the new TZ Bridge hours before it was finalized.

“At 4 p.m. today, Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison will close the deal (with the U.S. Department of Transportation),” special project advisor Brian Conybeare revealed at the December 19 Rockland Business Association meeting.

Nearly $700 million more than anticipated, it’s the largest low-interest (3.89 percent) loan in TIFIA history, and is a major triumph for the New NY Bridge project.

Design-build legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo two years ago allows the team, Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) to speed up the project by starting construction on support systems while still finishing other aspects of final design that will be built later.

Project officials said TZC’s “must be substantially completed by June 2014,” and then it and the TA can finalize plans and designs specifics — guard rails, sound barriers, bridge access for maintenance crews and construction details of the bridge structure and foundations. Conybeare assured that there will always be a bridge between South Nyack and Tarrytown as the new one is constructed, and the current one is dismantled.

“We are fully committed to seeing this project through on time and on budget, while limiting the impact on both toll payers and taxpayers,” Cuomo said.

Public opposition to paying $14 for a three-mile ride got Albany’s attention in August 2012, after Cuomo’s secretary and chief-of-staff Larry Schwartz announced the probability of inflated cash tolls on the new bridge. Eight days later, Cuomo called for a task force to find ways to reduce those numbers.

Rest easy; the TIFIA program allows flexibility in how loans proceeds are paid. Prior to the loan signing, “the Thruway Authority sold $1.6 billion in five-year bonds, at a 2.2 percent interest cost, on Wall Street,” Conybeare said. “It won’t draw on the proceeds until 2019, and won’t have to start repaying the TIFIA loan until five years after that.”

The loan closing is “another big step forward. This is great news that will create momentum in 2014 for this major job creator and infrastructure project,” Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland), the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, commented.

Construction on the New NY Bridge began in October; test pilings and other pre-construction activities have been underway since earlier this year with temporary work platforms along the Westchester and Rockland shorelines reducing the need for dredging.

RBA President/CEO Al Samuels, who has championed for a newer, safer bridge during the past 15 years, said it couldn’t have happened sooner.

“There are people in the building trades who weren’t working a year ago, and who are now employed with the project,” Samuels said. And while “a majority of the work force involved in the bridge is in construction this year, next year they may come from a different work force.”

Mass transit talks have been discouraging, causing him to back away.

“We never heard about a Port Chester to Suffern, ride, only one from Suffern to Port Chester,” Samuels emphasized. “Rocklanders don’t want a bus to take them to White Plains to shop, because we have the Palisades Center. We need commercial expansion, and we also need a transportation mode to get people to work here.”

TZC is using the old Journal News plant on Route 303 in Clarkstown as a temporary home for the NYSP and NYSTA maintenance facilities (its current building in Tarrytown will be razed). It also leased the NRG site (former Lovett power plant) in Stony Point for construction staging and loading supplies onto barges, and has offices at three Tarrytown locations.

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times December 22, 2013.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

No Tricks, and a Treat: TIFIA Loan Approved

Courtesy of the New NY Bridge

Courtesy of the New NY Bridge

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the federal government said “YES” to up to a $1.6 billion low interest loan for the bridge replacement project.

This amount is the largest in TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan request history — and secures key financing for the project. More than one year ago, the New York State Thruway Authority requested a $1.5 billion loan; days earlier, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the agency’s long-term bond rating from A+ to A due to concern about potential toll increases.

Its application approved, the state can move forward with the $3.9 billion project.

Project cost shares eligible for TIFIA coverage were previously limited to 33 percent, according to Federal Highway Administration spokeswoman Nancy Singer. If the bridge replacement project is being advanced through the review process based on that percentage, then 33 percent of $3.9 billion is $1.287 billion.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

First Day (of October), and Watching Closely

Crisp autumn day: a blue sky and calm river/© Janie Rosman

Crisp autumn day: a blue sky and calm river/© Janie Rosman

Things are moving along with the New NY Bridge project — various panels and committees convening, the transit task force nearing its year-end deadline, and preparing to make recommendations, its finance subcommittee also considering options.

New York State submitted a TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan request for the estimated $3.9 billion undertaking.

Washington intervened. The US Department of Transportation posted Government Shutdown Information on its website that details what will/not be closed.

We are monitoring the situation, and will do what we can to keep the process moving forward, a Thruway official assured; in the short term, the Federal Highway Administration doesn’t anticipate the shutdown will have an impact on the TIFIA program.

Then again, the situation might be temporary. Let’s hope so.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

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