Cuomo’s DOT Gets Cracking on a Tappan Zee Without Transit

Andrew Cuomo inspecting the Tappan Zee Bridge in 2010. Then, an extensive public process had led to plans for transit across a new bridge. Now, Cuomo is ramming a transit-free bridge down the Hudson Valley's throat. Photo: Angel Franco/Newsday

Despite intense opposition from nearly every local elected official and a total lack of public input on the new design, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Transportation are moving forward with plans to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge without transit.

On Friday, the state submitted an amendment to the TIP, the list of regional transportation projects eligible for federal funding. The amendment requests the ability to spend $18.6 million on preliminary engineering work for the transit-free bridge. Passing the TIP amendment is a necessary step toward paying for the early bridge work.

Eliot Spitzer might have called himself the steamroller, but the nickname turns out to be a much better fit for Cuomo, who’s trampling the public process in a rush to lay down pavement.

At the only public meetings since transit was dropped from the bridge plans, according to press reports, most speakers who mentioned the issue made clear that Rockland and Westchester counties need transit. Both county executives, all three state senators representing the area, two state assembly members and a slew of local elected officials have repeatedly stood up to demand transit across the bridge. Deep support for the transit option built up over a nine-year planning process that included 280 public meetings.

In contrast, Cuomo’s transit-free bridge has been on the table for a matter of months, and the TIP amendment has a nine day public comment period, starting today, in the run-up to the holiday season. (To comment, email Jean Shanahan at the state DOT.) The “fast-tracking” of the project has been anything but transparent. At first, Cuomo didn’t even admit to removing transit. Even now, his office claims that building the bridge without transit will actually hasten the construction of transit on the bridge.

There’s also startlingly few specifics about how Cuomo will pay for the bridge. A plan to tap union pension funds is still sketchy at best and there’s never been any indication of how the pensions would be paid back with interest.

In his 2010 campaign, candidate Cuomo promised to “encourage public transportation infrastructure.” Read his platform at the time:

“Public transportation infrastructure is a vital piece of New York’s economy and must be a key component for smart growth, urban redevelopment and environmental policy. Advancements in sustainable development, urban renewal, and environmental conservation will falter or reverse if New York neglects its public transportation infrastructure. A commitment to the environment, therefore, must also include a commitment to our public transportation systems.”

On the Tappan Zee Bridge, as in Albany’s disastrous-for-transit special session, the governor has broken that promise.