President Barack Obama was in Tarrytown Wednesday to talk money and infrastructure—and where better than at the Hudson River’s highly recognizable, highly outdated three-mile span?
“Behind me is the old Tappan Zee Bridge, the longest bridge in New York,” Obama said in his 16-minute speech at Sunset Cove Restaurant near the familiar backdrop. “At times you can see the river through the cracks of the pavement. Now, I’m not an engineer, but I figure that’s not good.”
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Gov. Cuomo said Wednesday the Tappan Zee Bridge was outdated
“It has been outdated,” echoed Governor Andrew Cuomo, who introduced the president. “It’s been unsafe. It’s been in need of repair for many, many years.”
Obama pressed the urgency of his transportation bill at the former TZB staging area, and announced a new infrastructure plan. He talked about fast-tracking the TZB replacement project, and also announced a plan to speed up 11 other infrastructure projects in cities nationwide.
The president’s $302 billion, four-year transportation measure would reverse a longstanding prohibition—under Title 23 of the United States Code (Highways)—on interstate tolling, opening the door for states to raise money for road repairs via tolls on interstate highways. Approximately $150 billion of that would be directed into infrastructure programs, roads, and bridges. This would be in addition to money raised from federal gasoline and diesel taxes, to be paid for by changing business taxes and closing corporate loopholes like those encouraging U.S. companies to invest overseas.
Without a Congressional nod, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s pocketbook for highway, bridge, and transit projects runs dry on September 30, 2014.
“We don’t need a ‘Can’t do’ spirit, we need a ‘Can Do’ spirit,” Obama said. “We need Congress to work with us on these issues—I don’t want to rebuild one bridge, I want to rebuild every bridge,” Obama added.
So what’s the potential impact on the TZB replacement? Is the state’s $1.6 billion loan fully funded?
Rockland County Executive Ed Day expressed concern about the potential fare increases resulting from the new bridge. “There are issues with a $15 toll, and ways to deal with funding. We shouldn’t have to pay for a bridge that’s as expensive as New York City bridges,” he said. “Merge the bridge and the Thruway Authority, and fund the Canal system separately.”
“The Tappan Zee Bridge is a crucial link in infrastructure not just for commuters, but for private commerce, security, government, and health,” State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (92nd AD), whose district includes Tarrytown, said. “Improved infrastructure is the bridge to a better future for everyone. We need this, and without it, we falter.”
It was the bridge, not the infrastructure around it that impressed Millwood resident Liz Imkeller. She used to kayak on the river and remembers being impressed by its beauty. Imkeller said her 20-year-old triplets at SUNY Binghamton once drove two of her sons and their friends visiting from Germany last August to see Obama at the school.
“It’s nice that the president came here to talk about the bridge,” she said.
“We clearly need the new bridge, and the region and the country will benefit from the economic benefits it will help generate,” Tarrytown village liaison David Aukland said, “but it has to be paid for. Much of that will come back to tolls or taxes (for example, a more rational gas tax), which may be painful, but there is no magic wand.”
The timeline for constructing a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge can be viewed below.
The New York State Thruway Authority’s proposed timeline for constructing a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge. Courtesy of The New York State Thruway Authority