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Sound Shore Commuters Question New Bridge Tolls

RYE, N.Y. – Sound Shore residents blasted the toll hikes anticipated on the new $5.2 billion bridge that will replace the Tappan Zee at a community outreach meeting at the Rye Free Reading Room in Rye on Thursday night.

The meeting was one in a series held by the state to gauge reaction to the bridge expected to need no maintenance in its first 100 years.

The toll could cost $14 for general drivers, an increase from today’s $5, and $8.40 for commuters, an increase from today’s $3, when the new bridge open in 2015. An Eastchester resident asked whether the state would consider homogenizing toll prices throughout the state. “It’s kind of a hefty price to pay,” she said.

The tolls would have to be raised on the Tappan Zee Bridge, said Larry Schwartz, secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The truth is, there’s only one choice that make sense,” he said. If the state repaired the existing bridge, tolls could still rise to $12. If a mass transit system were added onto the bridge, such as a Bus Rapid Transit System, the tolls could hit nearly $30 per trip.

Thomas Madison, executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority, warned the crowd about a Bus Rapid Transit System. “I don’t think you’d want to live through [construction] again. But that’s exactly what we would be required to do because there would be a massive construction project on the highway before we even get to the bridge.”

In the past decade, $750 million has been spent on the current Tappan Zee Bridge. The assembled panel told residents that long-term maintenance of the bridge is not a good option.

“It would still be unsafe,” said Schwartz. “You wouldn’t have shoulders or a breakdown lane … you wouldn’t have anything expect a bridge with Band-Aids.”

Charmian Neary, a Rye resident who said she commutes regularly, asked how the tolls would improve congestion but said she was happy about the new bridge. “I’m excited about it, and this is impressive,” she said.

Most questions Thursday night focused on the cost of the project, except one: Neary’s young son Russ Gardner submitted a question asking whether the bridge would be demolished using explosives. The answer was no, the Tappan Zee Bridge would be dismantled in pieces that would most likely be taken away on barges.

The new bridge is expected to include eight traffic lanes, dedicated lanes and shoulders for emergency vehicles, a dedicated bus lane, a pedestrian walkway/bikeway, high-tech sensors provide real-time data on traffic and road conditions, and improved toll collection and E-ZPass lanes.

For more information on the new bridge visit www.newnybridge.com or call 855 TZ BRIDGE.

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