Cuomo’s ambitious infrastructure plan carries hefty price tag
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State and budget address, with its “Built to Lead” tagline, was headlined by a slate of infrastructure projects across the state that Cuomo said would “make Gov. Rockefeller jealous.”
Cuomo’s emphasis on ambitious and costly projects comes after he and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed last year to fund a $26.1 billion capital plan for the downstate Metropolitan Transportation Authority, prompting many upstate lawmakers to call for parity.
“Now, upstate New York must remain an economic priority,” Cuomo said during his address last month. “The cold truth is that this state government shortchanged upstate New York for many years. And that was shortsighted. Not only are we one New York family, but we are one New York balance sheet and upstate growth means a stronger economy for all.”
In particular, Cuomo proposed a $22 billion multi-year capital plan to upgrade critical roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure in upstate New York. He also offered a Thruway toll reduction plan, which would keep tolls flat until at least 2020 for all users, cut tolls in half for frequent travelers and eliminate tolls for farm vehicles.
The governor also launched a $200 million grant program for upstate airports to renovate and accelerate investments in commercial passenger and cargo service airports.
But despite the urging of upstate lawmakers, many of the new projects will largely benefit downstate. Both LaGuardia and JFK airports would see improvements: Cuomo has proposed a $4 billion plan to demolish LaGuardia and replace it with a new terminal and an overhaul of JFK, though the master plan for JFK has not yet been released. Cuomo also allotted $3 billion to expand and re-imagine Penn Station, which will be called the “Empire State Complex,” and will include a new train hall in the James A. Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue.
In addition to the commitment to fund the MTA capital plan, Cuomo said he would renovate and upgrade 30 MTA subway stations. A new $20 billion rail line would also be built under the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey.
And on Long Island, the governor unveiled a plan to add new capacity to a stretch of the Long Island Rail Road and a $5 million study on a potential tunnel connecting Long Island and the Bronx, Westchester County or Connecticut.
Several lawmakers and budget analysts have questioned how the state will pay for these many projects, which state officials have pegged at a whopping $100 billion. During a transportation budget hearing in January, lawmakers grilled state Transportation Department Commissioner Matt Driscoll for details on the funding.
When asked by one state lawmaker to identify the source of the additional revenue, Driscoll simply answered it would come from “state funding.”