The $14 toll that the Cuomo administration has proposed for a new Tappan Zee Bridge is too high, the governor said on Friday.
The toll would nearly triple the current $5 on the existing bridge. When it was announced by Cuomo staffers last week, it caused an outcry in the New York City suburbs that rely on the span.
“We must find alternatives, revenue generators and cost reductions that reduce the potential toll increases,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a letter to the state Thruway Authority. “For many Rockland and Westchester residents, the bridge is the only practical crossing for commuting, shopping and visiting family.”
In a public radio interview with Susan Arbetter on Friday, Cuomo sought to distance himself from the projections he released a week earlier through his chief of staff and director of operations.
“They have a projection of what the tolls could be,” Cuomo said. “What I said is I want to put together a task force. At the end of the day, we have to make tolls affordable.”
The governor called for a task force to find ways to maximize federal support and to lower the cost of borrowing, so the toll increase can be reduced by 2017, when the $5.2 billion bridge is expected to be finished. The current Tappan Zee is overcrowded and deteriorating.
Cuomo also suggested an expanded discount program for residents of Rockland and Westchester counties, which are connected by the span over the Hudson River.
The projections made public by Cuomo’s top two aides last week include discounts for local commuters, but their toll would still go up from $3 to $8.40.
Until Cuomo’s letter, he and his administration had been defending the projected tolls. The estimates released last week said that even if no new bridge is built, tolls on the old bridge would be $12 by 2017.
Although the $14 toll proposal came from Cuomo’s own administration, his call for less of an increase could win him support with Hudson Valley voters. He has also been trying to persuade businesses that a “new New York” doesn’t have to be a high-cost place for commerce.
In his letter, Cuomo also recommended that architects, historians and “international design experts” be included on the panel selecting the design of the bridge. He said that would help ensure that “the landscape, design, the fit with the natural beauty of the Hudson River and the interests of the citizens in the surrounding communities” would be taken into account.
Read more: CBS LOCAL