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Mayor Bloomberg pushes mass transit option for Tappan Zee Bridge
Maybe he could just write the state a check?
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touched off a mini-firestorm Friday when he decided to chime in on the Tappan Zee Bridge, which, as far as we can tell, is not located in hizzoner's jurisdiction.
"Not to put mass transit on the bridge is a terrible mistake," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. "I don't care what it costs. Mass transit is our future."
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This isn't a radical thought. Bloomberg was only echoing what transportation advocates have been saying for years. Without a dedicated bus or rail option, they've warned, the new twin-bridge span would become obsolete the day the new toll plaza opens.
But the new bridge's biggest cheerleader, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, has said that if mass transit is added now, it would double the $4 billon cost of a new bridge and unnecessarily stall a long-awaited replacement for a rusting hulk.
Instead, Cuomo has shepherded a bridge design that would allow mass transit to be added in the future -- assuming the money or the political will can be found.
And he's agreed to a dedicated rush-hour bus lane that would get commuters around morning traffic jams and on to nearby Metro-North stations. More ideas may emerge from a mass transit task force the governor appointed to come up with innovative ways to resolve the issue.
Bloomberg's out-front position on mass transit gained a fan in State Sen. Greg Ball, a fellow Republican from Patterson.
"I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his recent comments and insight on the Tappan Zee Bridge," Ball said in a news release he sent out Tuesday. "As the mayor said, mass transit is our future and we cannot consistently leverage debt-based financing or squeeze taxpayers. This bridge is too big and too expensive to get wrong."
Ball was referring to the eventual cost of a new bridge for drivers who'll have to dig deeper into their wallets to pay back the cost of financing the bridge through the sale of bonds and federal loans.
A more-than-likely increase of the current $5 toll is expected once the bridge opens. Just how high the toll will go is still undecided.
Ball would prefer that instead of sticking bridge users with the tab the state should pass legislation making it easier for New York to pursue public-private partnerships when it builds big things like bridges.
"Our transportation infrastructure in New York is in dire need of modernization, starting with the Tappan Zee Bridge," Ball added.
Ball said he recently went to Texas where he got a primer on how the Lone Star State uses public-private partnerships to build its public works projects.