HUDSON — The Finance Committee of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to oppose the merger of the New York State Bridge Authority, which manages five bridges over the Hudson River, and the New York State Thruway Authority on Thursday.
The full board is scheduled to vote on the resolution at its meeting on Mar. 11. If passed, it will be certified and sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature, the board clerk said.
The Greene County Legislature will put forward a similar resolution at its meeting on Mar. 18, the Legislature’s clerk said.
The Finance Committee’s resolution opposes the loss of local authority over funds to maintain the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, said Hudson 4th Ward Supervisor Linda Mussmann, who first proposed the resolution to the Board of Supervisors.
The fear is that bridge tolls would increase under the Thruway Authority, she said.
“I would imagine we would have to pay more, which would have a devastating effect on people who travel back and forth,” Mussmann said. “There’s no reason for the governor to raid our funds to make up for his losses.”
The Rip Van Winkle Bridge costs $1.50 going from Greene to Columbia county and is free going in the other direction. Motorists with EZ-Pass pay $1.25 per west-to-east crossing.
Any toll increase would affect staff of Columbia Memorial Health and students at Columbia-Greene Community College who cross the bridge every day, said Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden.
“Forty percent of the hospital’s staff live in Greene County,” he said.
The state Association of County Administrators and Managers discussed the merger at its meeting in February, Groden said.
“The counties along the Hudson River are all concerned,” he said. “Nobody has explained to us why this is needed.”
“The fear is it’s going to suck money out of our bridges to fix the Tappan Zee,” Groden said, referring to what is now the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
The Bridge Authority uses tolls to support the maintenance and operation of its bridges, not tax dollars.
“The Bridge Authority has worked well all these years and not put a burden on taxpayers,” Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said.
Not all lawmakers oppose the merger.
“It’ll save the state a lot of money and alleviate a lot of personnel,” said Greene County Legislator Charles A. Martinez, R-Coxsackie.
“Every time the Thruway takes something over, they make it better,” Martinez said.
In addition to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, the Bridge Authority is also responsible for maintaining the Kingston-Rhinecliff, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson and Bear Mountain bridges.
The Thruway Authority, established in 1954, oversees the 570-mile superhighway, with 814 bridges, 118 interchanges, 11 toll barriers and 27 service areas, according to thruway.ny.gov.
Under the governor’s proposed merger, the Thruway Authority would absorb all of the rights, functions, powers, duties, obligations, covenants, pledges, undertakings, properties, debts, agreements, assets and liabilities of the Bridge Authority, according to the law.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the consolidation of the Bridge Authority and the Thruway Authority in his budget proposal in January.
Nora Mishanec is a reporter at Columbia-Greene Media and can be reached at email@example.com or 518-828-1616 x2495.