Thruway tolls could go up to help pay for infrastructure, new Mario Cuomo Bridge

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The first span of the new Mario Cuomo bridge is set to open on August 25th, yet as construction continues, there still has been no final word on exactly where the money is coming from to pay for this bridge.

“Never had a project approaching this scale for which there was no financial plan before it was built,” Research Director of the Empire Center for Public Policy E.J. McMahon said.

A financial plan for the new Mario Cuomo bridge has still yet to be released. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that a large part of the funding will come from the Thruway tolls.

“While it actually started with not much of a fiscal plan on how it was going to be built it is falling into place because we have wisely used a fair amount of settlement funds for not only the bridge but also other upstate infrastructure projects,” Assemblyman John McDonald (D-Cohoes) said.

These bank settlement funds for the Thruway account for about $2 billion of the $4 billion bridge. This still leaves about $2 billion for the project that needs to come from somewhere. Governor Cuomo is saying it will come from the full state Thruway system.

“I think that basically the people who use the Tappan Zee Bridge, the old bridge and the new bridges should be the ones who pay primarily for the bridge,” McMahon said.

In part, many are saying this is exactly what tolls are meant for, paying for bridges and other road construction projects. This money is seen being used for other projects besides just downstate.

“We just got awarded $15 million to do Cohoes Boulevard in Cohoes. There is a lot of infrastructure going on here in upstate New York,” Assemblyman McDonald said.

Toll rates in New York are frozen until at least 2020.

Even though Gov. Cuomo has not said outright tolls will be raised, part of the general consensus is that tolls could be increasing just to keep up with the large number of infrastructure projects across the state.

“Nobody wants to see fares increase, but in the same token, nobody wants to see bridges fall down,” Assemblyman McDonald said.

“This should not come as news to anybody, sooner or later the tolls have to go up because the system has to support itself,” McMahon said.

The last time tolls were raised in New York was in 2010.

The Governor’s Office did not return calls asking for a comment.

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