Cuomo Deal Could Clear the Way for a Transit-Oriented Tappan Zee

Regrettably, this was an April Fool’s Day post. It should be noted that Streetsblog’s prior April Fool’s Day stories have a way of coming true, at least in part.

A little-noticed piece of legislation, passed along with Albany’s budget deal at the Cuomo administration’s request, seems to open the door to building a Tappan Zee Bridge in line with the transit-oriented vision that came out of ten years of public planning.

The legislation enables Westchester and Rockland counties to establish special tax districts for the purposes of funding bus and rail lines on the I-87/I-287 corridor and on the bridge itself, according to sources familiar with the arrangement. The financing mechanism resembles the method New York City is using to build the 7 Line subway extension. Under the deal passed by Albany, the new tax districts will take effect if both counties rezone areas near future transit stations to allow for walkable, mixed-use development.

Previously the Cuomo administration had taken an aggressive stance against building transit on the new bridge and funding the rest of the bus and rail corridors. At one point a Cuomo spokesperson insisted that the state would not build transit on the Tappan Zee unless the counties picked up the tab. The deal is seen as giving the governor’s office a gracious way to shift its policy on the Tappan Zee replacement, following the widespread public outcry over its abandonment of transit.

Sources familiar with the legislation say the administration opted for the new approach after taking a hard look at the disastrous long-term financial consequences of building an extravagantly wide replacement bridge without any provision for transit. While no official announcement has been made, Cuomo is expected to interrupt the current project process — a final RFP was issued last month — and start over.

A high-level official participating in the negotiations said that after the administration cut off a decade of public planning that envisioned transit on the bridge, scrapping the last few months of brazen disregard for the region’s long-term future was “no big deal.”

Streetsblog will have more on this story tomorrow (Monday, April 2).