Proposed Abolition of Bridge Authority is Opposed

HIGHLAND – Assemblymember Jonathan G. Jacobson (D-104) organized a rally today, bringing together Assemblymember Sandy Galef (D-95) and other area leaders to express their opposition to Governor Cuomo’s proposed merger of the New York State Bridge Authority into the New York State Thruway Authority.

Jacobson said, “This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, this is a Hudson Valley issue.”

Jacobson and Galef made their statements in front of the Bridge Authority Headquarters in Highland, where they were joined by Anthony Adamo, President of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), Richard Gerentine, Chair of the Bridge Authority Board, Frank Castella,

President of the Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce, Senator Sue Serino, representatives of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, Town of Lloyd Board Member Mike Guerriero, and Bridge Authority Board members Roger Higgins, Roderick Dressel, Diane Jablonski, and Henry Stanton.

Assemblymember Jacobson said, “The proposed plan is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. This merger would have a detrimental impact on both the economy and the overall quality of life in this region. Our fear is simple. First, that tolls generated in the Hudson Valley will be diverted to fund the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. Second, that the Thruway Authority will raise tolls on these bridges while simultaneously allowing their condition to deteriorate. This merger is unnecessary, ill advised, and unfair. It is also just plain wrong. Wrong for the bridges, wrong for the communities, and wrong for the residents of the Hudson Valley.”

Assemblymember Galef said, “The Bridge Authority has, for decades, successfully ensured that the five major bridge in the Hudson Valley region remain safe and usable, and they have done so for decades while keeping costs low. These bridges have, in turn, allowed Hudson Valley residents to easily cross the Hudson River to work, shop, and a great many other activities that have stimulated our local economies. I fear that by dissolving this Authority, constituents that live and work in the Great Hudson Valley region will experience higher tolls and a potential decline in road conditions.”

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-103) could not attend, but wrote to say, “Our communities and our state representatives are united in assuring that the autonomy of the Bridge Authority be respected. Nothing proffered by advocates for a merger expands what can be done through less formal intergovernmental cooperation. The Bridge Authority works and works well. The Thruway Authority works and works well. Both are highly efficient operations. This proposal is a solution in search of a problem.”

Richard Gerentine, Chair of the Bridge Authority, said, “The Bridge Authority is run by a Board
of local volunteers who have always championed efficiency, maintenance, and safety. We already collaborate with the State to find savings on purchases, so there is nothing to be gained and everything to lose.”

Anthony Adamo, President of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), said “The hardworking men and women who work every day to keep the bridges safe and well-maintained should not be sacrificed for a bureaucratic plan hatched in Albany.”

Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106) wrote to say, “This is a true case of ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it.’ The Bridge Authority was established in 1932 by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt to ensure smooth and affordable travel across the Hudson River and to keep these bridges independent and locally operated. Tens of thousands of residents use these bridges each day as local roads, not highways, and the Governor’s proposal threatens to change that dynamic.
Abolishing the Bridge Authority runs a real risk of increased tolls for drivers and a seriously negative impact on our Hudson Valley economy and communities.”

Assemblymember Aileen Gunther (D-100) wrote to say, “We need to be keeping our money in the Hudson Valley. The Bridge Authority is one of those avenues that allows us to keep our money local. We shouldn’t be fixing something that isn’t broken.”

Senator Serino (R-41) said, “Our communities have always been wary of mega authorities because of our experience with the MTA, a situation where our community is barely given a voice and where our residents are treated as nothing more than a piggybank and an after thought. To date, no-one has been able to give us a concrete answer as to how much—if any—money this proposed consolidation may actually save New Yorkers. We also have not gotten guarantees that the tolls on our bridges won’t rise, or that tolls paid on our bridges won’t ultimately be used to subsidize the Thruway, or that these local jobs our residents depend on would be protected. Additionally, I do not see any reason why the two Authorities can’t already share services to keep costs down. When it comes to considering legislative proposals, we always have to weigh the benefits against the costs. I have yet to see how this proposal would directly benefit the residents that we serve, which is why I am urging my Legislative colleagues to reject this proposal.”

Established in the 1930s, the Bridge Authority is responsible for the Rip-Van Winkle Bridge, the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, the Mid-Hudson Bridge, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, and the Bear Mountain Bridge. Tolls are kept the same for each bridge and are currently $1.25 EZPASS/ $1.50 cash. The proposed 2020 increase to $1.65 EZ-PASS/ $2.15 cash will still be the lowest in New York State. The Thruway Authority currently charges $4.75 to motorists crossing the Mario G. Cuomo Bridge with a proposed 2020 increase to $5.75.

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