Mr. Vanderpool and TCAT Board Members,
As I read about TCAT’s search for a new facility I thought how the Willow Avenue site must feel like a pair of hand-me-downs that are two sizes too small. After finishing TCAT’s press release, however, I am left with concern for the $52 million proposal to build near the Ithaca Tompkins International Airport.
For a $52 million proposal, the TCAT press release does nothing to build confidence when it states, “the caveat from planning experts show these costs could increase substantially”. Considering the airport build, which ran 140% its original estimate, who can we expect to be held accountable? In the end, these overruns harm public trust in our government and increase the already heavy tax burden in our state.
The proposal at the Vanguard site, which at $27 million is less than half of the Ithaca airport site, appears to be a much better option. The site provides direct access not only to Route 13 but also Route 366. While the Vanguard site would add 4 miles one way to buses traveling to Ithaca via Rt. 13, even if we were to assume 50 buses made this trip daily with a depreciation, fuel and maintenance cost of $2.50 per mile (an estimate which when compared to national averages appears high), the added expense would be $365,000 per year, versus the additional $28 million estimated to build at the airport. It would take greater than 76 years of continuous daily operation for TCAT to recoup the difference. And while I am glad to hear you may be able to share some services with the airport, you may also be able to do so with NYSEG, located across the street from Vanguard. Or both!
Put another way, to locate 4 miles closer to Ithaca we would be spending an additional $28 million, or the entire 2019-2020 budget for the Trumansburg Central School district… With another $2 million to spare.
According to your press release the Board is “worried about the huge cost no matter which site made the final cut”. But how does it speak to Ithacan’s when you are basing a $52 million decision on a report that TCAT described in September as “showing factual errors, misspellings, grammatical mistakes and other problems”? Considering the high level of taxation and debt that New Yorkers face as we move into the new decade, I hope that you can reconsider the Vanguard site or more affordable alternatives. I eagerly await your reply and encourage you to publish it.