County executives from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties have just announced that they will be formally supporting the state's .
Their support, the executives said, will help New York State in its efforts to get federal funding for the multi-billion-dollar project to replace the outdated Tappan Zee Bridge linking Rockland and Westchester.
That support comes after getting assurances from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that efforts will be made to ease the impact of likely toll increase on local residents and works and to ensure mass transit options are included in the new bridge.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said they reached their decisions only after meeting one-on-one with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the project.
“I have been a strong supporter on the need for a new bridge but I’ve been equally strong on the need for some form of mass transit as a way to reduce congestion and pollution,” said Astorino. “Under the framework we announce today, mass transit will not be an afterthought in the building of the bridge. With plans to have mass transit as part of the new Tappan Zee Bridge we’re not waiting five years to start thinking about it, we’re moving forward now.”
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell also joined with Astorino and Vanderhoef as they announced their intention to vote yes at the next New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) meeting to include the new Tappan Zee Bridgeproject in the region’s long-range transportation plan.
The said their support came only getting guarantees from Cuomo that included:
- The bridge will be constructed with mass transit capacity compatible with a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and Commuter Rail Transit.
- A Regional Transit Task Force will be created to study costs and options for regional transit, including commuter rail and a BRT system on the bridge and key portions of the Westchester-Rockland corridor.
- The Task Force will issue recommendations in one year, with a plan for short-term steps that can be considered for immediate commencement, as well as long-term plans for transit solutions.
- Incentives will be created for contractors that could be used to reinvest in regional mass transit or to moderate impact on toll-payers.
"Bottom line, the bridge needs to be replaced," said Vanderhoef. "And if you're going to do that, ensure there's mass transit."
In addition, the governor and county executives agreed to establish a working group of Thruway, state, federal and local officials to examine ways to keep toll increases to the minimum necessary, including maximizing federal support, expanding discount programs for regional residents, and financing mechanisms that lower the cost of credit and borrowing.
O'Dell said she is supporting the project because the new Tappan Zee bridge is going to provide a jolt to the economic vitality of the region, with thousands of construction and engineering jobs, as well as the increased commerce for the region.