Key Vote on the Tappan Zee Bridge Delayed

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Tappan Zee Bridge (photo by waywuwei via flickr)

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) has postponed a meeting about the status of the Tappan Zee Bridge. But New York State officials are saying it won't slow down the state's ambitious timeline to replace the span.

NYMTC is a regional planning body made up of government officials from New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley. The group had scheduled a vote next week about whether to move the bridge replacement into its short-term transportation plan.  According to a NYMTC spokesperson, the vote is "part of the federally-required process that will enable the project to move forward to receive a record of decision."

Meaning: if NYMTC doesn't unanimously back the Tappan Zee replacement, the federal government won't okay it -- or designate any funding for the $5 billion project.

But an NYMTC email states the scheduled July 10th meeting won't happen--at the request of the County Executives of Rockland, Putnam, and Westchester Counties. The council said the executives wanted more time "to review the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project."

Officials say the FEIS could be released by the end of July.

Rockland executive Scott Vanderhoef and Westchester executive Rob Astorino have been vocal proponents of putting mass transit over the Tappan Zee Bridge. In an email, Astorino said the decision to postpone the vote was common sense.

"Why would we have a vote before seeing what’s in it?" he said. "Getting as much information up front will pay big dividends in terms of building a bridge that’s affordable and meets the present and future needs of Westchester, the region, our state and our nation.”

MaryEllen Odell, the Putnam County executive, called the decision to postpone the vote until the FEIS was released "good government." "You can't make a decision on a project until you've seen everything that you can possibly see," she said, adding that she wasn't looking for anything in specific -- nor did she have any serious concerns about replacing the bridge. "It's not really making any more of a statement other than 'we want to see the final document''s really important that this project happen. But what's more important is that it happen the right way. This is really just about making sure that whatever we're signing our names on to, where we're spending taxpayer money, is a project that works fiscally (and) is environmentally responsible and sensitive to our area."

New York State Thruway executive Thomas Madison put a positive face on the deferred vote. "The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s decision to wait for a full review of the Final Environmental Impact Statement [FEIS] before voting on the new Tappan Zee Bridge will give us time to make sure community stakeholders are fully informed and will in no way delay the project," he said in a statement.

But the FEIS won't be light reading. (You can see a photo of the draft EIS here.) There are some 3,000 comments from members of the public, and the county executives will likely have questions about financing -- and tolls.