NYS Exposed: Thruway drivers may help pay for new Tappan Zee Bridge

August 03, 2017 11:42 PM

The new Tappan Zee Bridge, renamed the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, is hundreds of miles away in downstate New York, but people in our area could be footing the bill.

A fiscal policy expert tells our Albany affiliate that tolls on the Thruway could go up for drivers all across the state. So far, Governor Cuomo has not said tolls will increase, but he didn't say they wouldn't either.

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The state did promise the Thruway would be toll free by the late 1990s. However, they not only continued -- they've also gone up. Tolls on the Thruway are currently frozen until 2020 but many experts expect that to change.

"It's definitely unfair," says Jay Ostrowski, Thruway traveler. "We don't use that bridge, we don't see that bridge. As a matter of fact, our company doesn't want to go to New York City anymore because it costs so much to get in and out."

Ostrowski is one of many upstate Thruway travelers concerned he'll be footing the bill for the new bridge that crosses the Hudson River downstate between Westchester and Rockland counties -- a $4 billion project.

"The idea that tolls may be going up or someone in Albany may be scheming to raise them, I think is certainly valid, so those concerns should be heeded," said Greg Biryla, Unshackle Upstate.

News10NBC finally got some information from Governor Cuomo. He was asked at an event last week about funding for the bridge. He said following the toll freeze that ends in 2020, the bridge "will be paid with toll revenue from the entire system." Something the Thruway Authority said wouldn't happen back in 2014.

"When we hear that some toll revenue from across the state, particularly upstate, may be diverted to pay for this downstate bridge, when we have so many infrastructure needs upstate," said Biryla. "Again, it raises our eyebrows."

News10NBC tried to get some clarification about the comments from the governor himself this week at a press event in Syracuse which now costs just less than $3 in tolls for a ride down the Thruway.

After a quick speech on economic development, he left without taking questions. His communication team did however tell us that tolls on the bridge represent twenty percent of all revenue on the Thruway and therefore upstate tolls won't be needed to pay for the bridge.

"Any infrastructure project of this magnitude should be factored into those long-term capital plans, that has legislative input, it has stakeholder input and it gets done as part of a budget process," said Biryla. "That's the responsible, transparent way to do this."


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