BY JANIE ROSMAN
President Barack Obama was in Tarrytown Wednesday to talk money and infrastructure, and where better than at the Hudson River’s 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.”
The president was introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who talked about the long haul before construction began. “It has been outdated,” Cuomo said of the span. “It’s been unsafe. It’s been in need of repair for many, many years.”
Obama thanked Cuomo for making this project happen, and both men thanked Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) for hastening federal funding. Cuomo was introduced by New NY Bridge construction supervisor and Mt. Kisco resident Chris Horton.
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 announced a plan to speed up 11 other infrastructure projects in cities nationwide.
“We are aiming to put every major infrastructure project on a public dashboard so everybody can go online, see the progress, hold us accountable, and see that it comes in on time and on budget,” Obama said. “Make sure your taxpayer money is being used well, but also make sure we’re putting folks back to work rebuilding America.”
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 by collecting tolls on interstate highways.
Approximately $150 billion would be directed into infrastructure programs, roads and bridges, beyond monies 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 onSeptember 30, 2014 — resulting in construction worker layoffs, and delaying or halting many projects.
“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.
What is the potential impact on the TZB replacement, one of 14 projects chosen to be fast-tracked by Obama’s administration in October 2011? Is the state’s $1.6 billion loan fully funded?
Rockland County Executive Ed Day expressed concern over the rumored vastly higher tolls the bridge may bring. “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.”
New City resident Chris Day, son of Rockland County Executive Ed Day, and a candidate for the 17th Congressional District, thought Obama’s talk missed the mark.
“While we can all agree that we needed a new bridge, it is disappointing to see the President bragging about a bridge that will be completed nearly 15 years later, without mass transit in the cost, and with Rockland and Westchester paying through tolls,” Day said.