TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – News about potential Tappan Zee Bridge toll hikes has residents outraged.
“These politicians don't care about the insane price increase because the taxpayers are paying for their ride,” Amy Ceconi wrote on The Tarrytown Daily Voice Facebook page.
State officials said tolls for the proposed bridge could be $14, nearly triple the current $5. That figure correlates with the “transit-capable” bridge that officials are hoping to build — a bridge that will include peak-hours-only express bus lanes.
Several former and current government officials -- including former Westchester County Executives Alfred Del Bello, Andy O'Rourke and Andy Spano -- held a press conference in Tarrytown Sunday to address the issue.
The toll hikes are part of the state's plan to raise funds to pay for the new bridge, which will cost an estimated $5.2 billion. State officials also hope to get a federal loan for nearly a third of the bridge's total costs.
Officials said the proposed project will give drivers a safe bridge and benefit the surrounding local economies.
"We look forward to the start of this project," said officials in a press release after the conference. "We are confident that some of the proposed $5 billion in spending will find its way into our local economy and benefit small and large businesses alike."
Officials said the influx of designers, inspectors, construction workers and suppliers would increase profits for local businesses and introduce new consumers to the area.
If the state were to rehabilitate the existing bridge, officials said tolls could be $12. A bridge that includes a mass transit system such as bus rapid-transit would have $28 tolls, the state said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed plans Sunday for a new bridge in a statement.
“The choice is clear, the tolls commuters will have for a new, better transit ready bridge are roughly the same as the tolls they will have to pay to repair the old Tappan Zee Bridge, which will still be dangerous, congested and unable to handle any transit,” said Cuomo. “Instead of paying more for the same bridge, it’s time to invest in a new better bridge that will create jobs, reduce congestion and give the region a real transit option.”
Discounts will be available for E-ZPass users and commuters on each of the toll options.
E-ZPass drivers are now paying $4.75 to cross the bridge. Motorists would see a $12 toll if the state repaired the existing bridge, a $14 toll for a transit-ready bridge and a $28 toll for a bridge with mass transit.
Commuters would see a $7.20 toll if the state repaired the existing bridge, an $8.40 toll for a transit-ready bridge and a $16.80 toll for a bridge with mass transit. Commuters currently pay $3 per crossing.
The proposed toll options would be similar to other bridges in the area, state officials said. Tolls for the George Washington Bridge are expected to increase to $15 in 2015. The Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridge tolls are expected to increase to $13 later in 2012.
Reader Tom Ehret called the potential toll hike a rip-off on Facebook.
“That bridge would be made of gold with all the money they make from every car,” he said.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner wants elected officials in the area to discuss the toll hikes, which he described as “excessive.”
“This will be a tremendous burden for lower income residents of both counties, for seniors and young people,” Feiner said.
Feiner suggested the state should offer discounts to local residents, pointing to the Grand Island Bridge in Buffalo where local residents get a significant discount when crossing the bridge.