SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – After getting promises from the state on mass transit and financing, the county executives of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam said Thursday that they would endorse the proposal for the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
The promises include dedicated bus lanes on the bridge, as well as the creation of a regional task force to study a mass-transit component for the bridge. Officials also announced that incentives will be created to prevent cost-overruns so that money can be reinvested in regional mass transit or used to reduce tolls on the new bridge.
“We have worked out a five-point plan that we believe is necessary to move forward, that certainly positions this bridge to the future and meets today's needs as well all the future with respect to building a bridge in these financial realities and this kind of economic climate,” Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said during a press conference Thursday.
Astorino, Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell gathered at Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow to outline commitments from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
The state wants to build a $5.2 billion bridge consisting of twin spans just north of the existing bridge. Federal officials have fast-tracked the process and are reviewing a final environmental impact statement before issuing a decision.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council will vote on the project in September, a vote that must be unanimous to allow the project to move forward. Astorino, Vanderhoef and Odell sit on the council and had postponed the vote until they could review the final environmental impact study, which was released this month.
Officials announced the creation of a regional transit task force that will concurrently study options for a regional mass-transit system, such as bus rapid transit or commuter rail between Westchester and Rockland Counties. The task force, Astorino said, would issue recommendations after one year.
“This was not going to be a decade-long task force that sits and does nothing,” he said. “We wanted assurances that the needs of this region were going to be met and that we were going to have a task force with teeth in it.”
Odell said “the devil's in the details,” but she was confident about the proposed bridge and the state's commitments.
In a statement, Cuomo said he was pleased the three county executives supported the plan.
“We will continue to work with local leaders and stakeholders as we move forward with one of the biggest and most critical infrastructure projects in New York,” he said.