To the Editor,
Motorists and taxpayers are concerned after learning that the construction contractor for the new Tappan Zee Bridge is suing the New York State Thruway Authority for $900 million in additional incurred costs for work not paid for. This includes overtime for project schedule acceleration and change orders to the base contract for additional work. Toll hikes anticipated to begin after 2020 may now have to be even greater to cover these costs. This is how Governor Andrew Cuomo always intended to find several billion to pay for construction. The final price tag will go up even more. The Citizens Budget Commission previously reported that tolls on the new bridge will likely increase from $5 to $10.50 after 2020.
Cuomo made a cold political calculation by promising not to raise the tolls when running for another term in 2018. To pay back the $1.6 billion dollar Federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Improvement Act (TIFIA) loan and $1 billion Thruway Authority Bond, as well as the up to $900 million in final bills to the contractor, tolls may have to double or more starting in 2021. The well respected Moody’s Investment Services estimated the tolls will go up to $7.60 by 2021 and $15 by 2026 for the Thruway Authority to be able to pay back the loan, bond and now up to $900 million more in contractor final payment claims.
Cuomo will exit Albany leaving taxpayers and commuters paying higher fares, taxes and tolls in coming years for a final project cost closer to $5 billion than his promised $3.98 billion to cover his tab. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch or in this case, construction of a bridge. At the end of the day, someone has to pay.
Great Neck, NY
(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office).