Will New Yorks leaders watch as residents slowly abandon the state, taking their assets and income with them? One test: Will Gov. Cuomo pledge to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge -- before the old one decays beyond repair?
The Tappan Zee points up whats wrong with New York. The “Tap” connects Rockland and Westchester counties over the Hudson, just north of Gotham. We rely on it more than ever: Each year, 51 million cars, trucks, and buses cross it -- more than either the Lincoln or Holland tunnels. Yet the Tap is a disaster in slow motion (if were lucky).
Todays traffic far exceeds the Taps designed capacity; the resulting delays mean less time at at work or leisure -- harming our economic productivity and quality of life. Worse, without ceaseless repairs and a team of 80 permanent maintenance workers, the bridge could collapse.
And its inevitable, continued deterioration makes for a growing risk. If state officials ever feel theyre losing the battle against the Taps deterioration, theyd have to shut the bridge immediately, diverting traffic to clogged arteries to the south and costing, likely, tens of thousands of lost working hours.
Problem is, the bridge was built poorly in the first place. Back in the 50s, Gov. Tom Dewey wanted it done fast and cheap -- so his Thruway Authority cut engineering corners, making it vulnerable to deterioration.
Keeping the status quo is penny-wise and pound-foolish. The Thruway will spend $1 billion “fixing” the bridge this decade, twice as much as it spent last decade. Next decade, if we still have a bridge to repair, itll spend $2 billion (in todays dollars) -- and double that again in the next 10 years.
Eventually, state officials warn, “continuous maintenance of the Tappan Zee Bridge will be so disruptive and costly as to render the crossing obsolete.”
Building a new bridge now -- one with lanes for buses, and heavy enough to carry a rail line eventually -- would cost $9.3 billion, less than it would cost to repair the old one over the 35 years. (The full figure, with rail, is about $16 billion.)
Twelve years ago, then-Gov. George Pataki said, “We are looking at the possibility of completely replacing the Tappan Zee . . . because it is so old.” A columnist for the local Hudson Valley paper figured it would take at least three years; The New York Times gave it 10.
Yet now, three governors later, the Thruway is only in the early stages of its environmental review. Even if all goes well, the state doesnt expect to break ground on the bridge until 2015, meaning that Gov. Cuomo wouldnt be driving the first car over the bridge even in a second term.
Its tempting to blame the enviro rules. But the fact is that when New York wants to do something, it doesnt worry about the legal niceties. It took little more than a year to secure environmental approval to extend the No. 7 line to the Far West Side of Manhattan, a project that Mayor Bloomberg threw his political weight -- and the citys money -- behind.
Cuomo could keep costs down, too, by insisting that private-sector construction unions, if they want these jobs, sign agreements that wring more work out of them -- changing rules that require two people to do the work that one person can safely do.
“Were broke” has been the excuse for a while. But New York can afford a new Tappan Zee -- were the fourth-richest state. Our tax burden is the nations third-highest. The state will spend $93 billion this year, not counting federal resources.
But New York spends this cash on other stuff. Of that $93 billion, $19.5 billion will go to schools, $17.3 billion for Medicaid and $6.2 billion for public-employee benefits. Transportation infrastructure will get $2.8 billion (for a total of $3.6 billion, with federal grants).
Cuomo should hammer this point home: Money that we spend on the past -- including pension and health benefits for people who still can retire in their 50s -- is money that we cant spend on the future.
And if Cuomo asked voters to hold him accountable for big progress on the Tappan Zee before two terms are up, hed demonstrate more leadership than his colleague across the Hudson.
Last year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed another important Hudson-crossing project, a rail tunnel to ease similarly clogged underground arteries, because he thought it was just too hard to keep costs and schedules under control.
Saying “no” to the infrastructure that helps us keep our future should not be an option.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/replace_the_tappan_zee_now_HssQL8m7j2REBwt3DxjeHN