Last week’s news that Gov Andrew Cuomo plans to use $511 million in clean water funds to help finance the new Tappan Zee Bridge had all of Westchester talking. The largely federally backed Environmental Facilities Corporation’s (EFC) Clean Water State Revolving Fund is traditionally used to finance municipal sewer upgrades, but Cuomo wants to tap the funds to help pay for projects including removal of the old span, river dredging and several other projects relating to the $3.9-billion bridge replacement.
The announcement that the proposal won funding from a state board on Thursday set the usual fight in motion: environmental advocates vs economic development proponents. Environmental groups including the EPA condemn the plan, saying funds set aside for drinking water, sewage and other water projects shouldn’t be used on a bridge project, and claim that the plan was rushed through without public input.
But Westchester’s business community seems to be supportive of what Cuomo called “creative” use of the funds. Here is what two Westchester business leaders had to say about the issue:
William Mooney, CEO, Westchester County Association:
“The use of EFC funding is a resourceful way to continue progress on the new Tappan Zee Bridge in a way that is fiscally and environmentally responsible. In addition to taxpayers and drivers’ needs, this low-interest loan enables the State to keep potential toll increases down. It will also be able to mitigate environmental impacts, protecting our wildlife. Allocating EFC funding is the smart thing to do, resulting in a new bridge that will provide for less congestion while fulfilling our responsibility to the environment and taxpayers.”
Ross J. Pepe, President, Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc; and President, Building Contractors Association of Westchester & Mid-Hudson Region, Inc:
“The Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., and its many aligned trade organizations fully endorse the loan program that the Environmental Facilities Corporation is making possible. These no-interest and low-interest loans will make the final toll fare to motorists that much lower. At this time, access to half billion dollars in low and no-cost money to help finance the construction of the new Tappan Zee bridge is extremely significant. In the short run, low-cost money means more dollars will stay in the pockets of commuters, motorists and commercial truckers – money that will circulate with business and consumer spending to help boost the local and regional economy….. The New NY Bridge project is already putting people back to work and having a positive impact on the Hudson Valley economy…. Anyone who says they are against these EFC loans is fooling themselves and short-changing the public. Let’s do the math: higher environmental protection costs means higher tolls on the new bridge. Lower loan financing costs means lower tolls on the new bridge.”