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Tappan Zee Bridge

WNYC News

Local Pols Sound Conciliatory Note on Mass Transit and the Tappan Zee

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

If local New York politicians are working through the five stages of grief over the lack of a comprehensive mass transit system for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, they might be moving closer to acceptance.

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Transportation Nation

Westchester: You're Throwing Us a Three-Mile Transit Bone on the Tappan Zee Bridge; Give Us Nine More, Please

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tappan Zee Bridge (photo by waywuwei via flickr)

If local New York politicians are working through the five stages of grief over the lack of a comprehensive mass transit system for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, they might be moving closer to acceptance.

On Tuesday's Brian Lehrer Show, Westchester County executive Rob Astorino -- who has criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo's plans for Tappan Zee Bridge in the past -- today sounded a conciliatory note.

"We're basically all on the same page," said Astorino.

His remarks come after Rockland County executive Scott Vanderhoef told TN last week that he had dropped his insistence that a full bus rapid transit system be built now.

Vanderhoef said today on the Brian Lehrer Show he understood the financial realities.  "I agree with the governor's comment: ultimately, this is being paid for by our residents in some form or fashion. It's just you can't think only short term... it has to be long term."

Brian also asked if the old bridge would be retained as a bike/pedestrian bridge. "No," said Vanderhoef bluntly. "You'd have to pour an awful lot of money into that existing bridge."

Listen to the entire 16-minute interview below.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino talk about the reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

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Transportation Nation

NY Gov Cuomo: We're Paying for the New Tappan Zee With Tolls -- And Mass Transit Would Increase Them Even More

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (right), announcing an updated '511NY' system. (photo by governorandrewcuomo via flickr)

At a press conference today announcing the state's revamped 511 travel information system, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated his position that putting transit over the Tappan Zee Bridge could double construction costs -- which would then be passed on to toll payers.

"Money matters," he said. "If you asked toll payers do they wanted to pay double the toll, my guess is the answer would be no.  If you asked the taxpayers do they want to pay $10 billion, the answer would be no."

But mass transit advocates dispute the state's cost estimates of adding bus rapid transit (BRT) to the new bridge.

Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said New York had never accurately analyzed the cost of a simple BRT system and was relying instead on old projections for a much more elaborate project.  “If the state's BRT cost analysis only considered installing bus rapid transit in the context of a massive I-287 overhaul, it made a mistake," said Vanterpool in an email. "You don’t need to dig a tunnel to paint a bus lane."

Westchester County executive Rob Astorino echoed that thought Tuesday. In an appearance on the radio show "Live From the State Capitol," he said: "If the average mile is considered to be about $166 million, according to the state, that is about ten times more than the average bus rapid transit mile in the nation."

But Cuomo said during his press conference that his problem was not with the idea of transit, but with the reality of paying for it.

"In theory is a mass transit system across the state a great idea? Of course, of course," he said. "You're not going to get anyone -- certainly the people around this table -- to say anything but they support a robust mass transit system all across the state. The question then becomes the reality of the situation, and the cost of the situation. And to put in a bus system now, for Rockland County and Westchester would roughly double the cost, from five billion to ten billion. And that is a significant increase, and one that I believe is not advisable at this time."

Cuomo said the financing plan for the bridge had yet to be finalized, but one thing was certain: "The basic source of financing will be the tolls," he said. "So the bulk of the financing will come from the tolls. And that's why whatever the cost of the bridge is, whatever you add on is going to be financed by the tolls. And it's very simple at one point. We make it complicated. You can build whatever you want. You then have to pay for what you build."

When pressed about tolls, he said "we'll have it broken down to what the toll will go to for various options, and then the people will decide."

The governor has long said mass transit on the bridge would lead to toll hikes -- and that if the counties want it, they can pay for it. Earlier this year the governor's press office sent out an email saying "the Counties have no plans in place to construct these 64 miles of mass transit. The entire bridge is only three miles and will support mass transit, if and when the Counties build it."

In a phone interview with TN Tuesday, Rockland County executive Scott Vanderhoef called that type of thinking "cynical" and said a BRT system would serve more people than just Rockland and Westchester. "I don't buy that argument. It's a thruway system, a federally-funded, state-funded thruway system. And ultimately you're talking about multiple jurisdictions that it would have to serve...so it's a regionally important area."

"But," he said, "I'm also not insisting that [BRT] be built now." What he wants "is to move people across this bridge, a new bridge, in any way that you can...to keep them out of cars." Vanderhoef said he was encouraged by the state's recent announcement that it would create rush-hour bus lanes on the new bridge.

Vanderhoef and Astorino -- along with Putnam County executive MaryEllen Odell -- have asked the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council to defer voting on the Tappan Zee Bridge until they get more information about the project. "No one disagrees that the bridge needs to be replaced," Vanderhoef told TN. "The question is: what are you buying?" He said the final environmental impact statement, which will be released later this summer, would address those issues.

A NYMTC vote on the project -- which is necessary in order to secure federal funding -- could take place in September.

You can listen to Governor Cuomo's remarks below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WNYC News

Key Vote on Tappan Zee Bridge Delayed, But NY Says It Won't Slow Project Down

Thursday, July 05, 2012

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 delay the state’s ambitious timeline to replace the span.

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WNYC News

Funding Plan for Tappan Zee May Not Come Until August

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The head of the New York State Thruway Authority said Thursday that the road to funding the planned replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge goes through toll-backed bonds — although a concrete financial plan may not come until August.

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Transportation Nation

Financial Plan for Tappan Zee Bridge Probably Won't Come Until August

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Tappan Zee Bridge, which crosses the Hudson and connects Rockland and Westchester Counties (photo by Patsy Wooters via Flickr)

Thomas Madison, the head of the New York State Thruway Authority, knows the $5 billion-dollar question is how the state will pay for its planned replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. But he's able to maintain a sense of humor about the uncertainty.

Speaking Thursday morning at a breakfast sponsored by the Citizens Budget Commission, Madison pointed to his presentation about the bridge and said: "I'm going to go through these slides fairly quickly, because I understand there's a lot of questions on how we're going to finance the project that I can't answer --  so I will hedge those after the presentation."

But he did impart some information about how the state will fund what is expected to be a $5 billion to $6 billion cost: "The principal way -- and the predominant way -- will be toll-backed Thruway bonds. There's been talk about pension funds, or some other private equity introduction into the process. Those discussions continue, but ultimately this will be a publicly funded project."

Madison said the "hard target" for a financial plan is August, when the federal government is expected to sign off on the project, but it could come sooner.

Other details:

  • While the state is "confident" it will get that loan, it's also exploring other federal grant possibilities
  • Any private money won't come in the form of a public/private partnership, because the state lacks that legislative authority.
  • There's "no intent" to raise tolls -- but it's the state's goal to be consistent with other area crossings. And "the bridge itself and the New York State Thruway system generally is the biggest bargain in terms of toll roads in the Northeast." (Currently, the undiscounted toll for crossing the Tappan Zee is $5; the cash toll for the George Washington Bridge is $12.)
  • This is a roads project, not a transit one. "The Thruway Authority does not own or operate or maintain any transit systems today and we're not in the transit business." The bridge will be built so as to "not preclude" a bus rapid transit or rail line in the future. But as it stands today, "we can't afford to incorporate a full transit system beyond the bridge itself."
  • The MTA is giving the state information about loading capacity to make sure that's included in the design of the new bridge.
  • But what will the new Tappan Zee look like? "We will know the design of the bridge when we receive the proposals from the four teams (currently bidding on the project); right now that is slated for the end of July."
  • Even though the bridge is being expanded significantly, "capacity will still be an issue... so we're going to incorporate some intelligent transportation systems to manage the traffic better."
  • No news on what might happen to the existing bridge when the new one is operational. Madison said the contract calls for its demolition (which will cost $150 million). And the state is exploring "repurposing it," the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers have some "serious reservations."

Meanwhile, preliminary work on the new bridge is in full swing on the Hudson. And Madison said starting Friday, "they're going to start driving these ten-foot-in-diameter, 180-foot-long piles down into the riverbed, and then they actually weld another 180-foot pipe on top of that, and continue driving it down."

This, he said, will give the companies bidding on the project information they need on the bedrock and substrate.

You can see Thomas Madison's presentation here.

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Transportation Nation

NY Gov Cuomo Offers No Details on Tappan Zee Bridge Funds

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Tappan Zee Bridge spanning, on the day of this photo, a serene Hudson River. (Flckr / duluoz cats)

(New York, NY - WNYC) In the Q & A after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the members of a new state Infrastructure Bank Board, he talked today about how the state might pay to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge after the federal government did not grant a $2 billion loan application.

(Ray LaHood wrote about the projects that did get the funding here.)

The proposed $5.2 billion project is a high priority for Cuomo.  It would build two spans to replace an aging, overcrowded bridge across the Hudson River in New York City's northern suburbs.

Environmental and transportation groups have criticized the replacement bridge's design because it makes no provision for transit.  Some opponents have suggested Cuomo's  vehicles-only approach contributed to the project's failure to win federal transportation funding.

But Cuomo downplayed the decision by the Obama administration not to grant a loan on April 26.   Cuomo said he's considering public-private partnerships that could leverage private financing, but he has no proposal at this time.

Here's an excerpt of the Q & A:

Q: Was it disappointing to not get the federal transportation loan for the Tappan Zee Bridge? Also, any progress on the next steps in terms of funding?

Cuomo: I believe the federal transportation funds will be reauthorized and I believe we will be competitive. Howard, anything new on the Tappan Zee financing?

Director of State Operations Howard Glaser: We’re doing many things simultaneously: the environmental review, the financial plans, working out labor agreements. So you’ll continue to see that work being done over the next few months.

Q: Do you need public-private partnership legislation to fund the bridge?

Cuomo: We’re talking about public-private partnership legislation. We don’t have an immediate proposal on that.

[Cuomo then talked about the various political obstacles to the project, and the need to overcome them to show that the state can still think and build big.]

[We're battling] inertia and institutional opposition—just bureaucratic opposition: opposition of the system, opposition to change, opposition to risk, which is very real and one of the main challenges you’re going to face.

The Tappan Zee Bridge is a project that has been talked about for decades, literally. The Tappan Zee Bridge--and there’s a project called the Peace Bridge in Buffalo--are large scale public works projects that have been talked about for decades but have somehow defied progress, let alone completion. That is one of those cultural enemies, I think, to progress. This sense that big projects are just too difficult to tackle.

Building a bridge: it’s controversial, it’s complex, there’s going to be opposition and [the idea that] if there’s opposition, we should stop. We’re trying to do the exact opposite with the Tappan Zee. We’re trying to say, ‘When there is a pressing need, government should be able to respond quickly, expeditiously, efficiently. Hear everyone, fair process, due process…but then get it done. Get it done.’

Government was about functioning [during the tenure of former NY State Governor] Al Smith. Government was about functioning and performing, competently, quickly. So the Tappan Zee Bridge, which we’ll be involved in, is a project that we identified early on, that is not just going to be about repairing that bridge. But it’s going to be about making the statement that government can work and society can work and we can still do big things. We’re that good. So keeping the Tappan Zee on time and moving along is very important to us.

Q: The biggest roadblock seems to be how to pay for it.

Cuomo: We’re working through a number of financing options and we’ll present a number of options for discussion and we’ll pick the best one.

Q: Will you be passing legislation during this session to allow you to raise public-private money for the Tappan Zee Bridge? Would it have to go through legislation?

Cuomo: It would not have to go through legislation. No.

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WNYC News

Cuomo Mulls New Effort to Replace Tappan Zee

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he's considering new ideas for paying to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge after the federal government rejected a $2 billion loan application.

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WNYC News

No Federal Loan For Tappan Zee Bridge For Now

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New York State had been hoping that a third of the cost of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement would be funded through a low-interest loan. But the federal government has taken a pass — at least for this round.

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Transportation Nation

No Federal Loan for Tappan Zee Bridge -- At Least Right Now

Thursday, April 26, 2012

UPDATED WITH LETTER FROM FEDERAL GOVERNMENT New York State had been hoping that a third of the cost of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement would be funded through a low-interest loan. But the federal government has taken a pass -- at least for this round.

State officials are maintaining that today's announcement is "very good news."  Speaking at an Albany press conference, director of operations Howard Glaser said the bridge would still be considered in later rounds of funding.

"They advised us the Tappan Zee bridge would be one of the six large scale projects that will be considered in the second round," Glaser said. But Glaser acknowledged financing couldn't come until after congress passes a surface transportation re authorization bill, which many experts predict won't happen until after the November elections.  And a letter supplied to Transportation Nation (at the end of the post) didn't mention a short list of six projects.

In February, the state sent the U.S. Department of Transportation a letter of interest, requesting a $2 billion TIFIA (for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan for the massive bridge construction project.

The state had said that the total cost of the project would be about $5.2 billion, although a budget hasn't been finalized.

The TIFIA website says that the agency received "26 Letters of Interest (LOIs) seeking more than $13 billion in credit assistance to finance approximately $36 billion in infrastructure investment across the country." It continues: "While limited TIFIA resources mean that not all of the LOIs can be selected, five projects are being invited to apply for credit assistance."

But state officials -- who have yet to release a financing plan for the project -- say the Tappan Zee bridge isn't out of it. "In this first round they only did $100 million total for the whole country," Glaser said. " Remember our application for the Tappan Zee alone is in excess of $2 billion.  So those large sclae  high profile projets will be a further round based  on federally available funding. They can't fund these large programs right now."

Glaser said the Tappan Zee bridge funding would have to wait until Congress reauthorizes the transportation bill.

TIFIA loans are used for large-scale infrastructure projects that cost $50 million or more. Loans can't exceed 33% of project costs.

The letter to the state from the federal government didn't make any mention of a short list of six projects. Here's the letter:

John M. Bryan
Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer
Interim Chief Information Officer

Thank you for submitting a Letter of Interest (LOI) in response to the FY 2012 TIFIA Notice of Funding Availability.  In response to the December 30, 2011 deadline, the Department received 26 LOIs seeking over $13 billion in credit assistance to finance an estimated $36 billion in infrastructure investment.  The requested level of TIFIA financing is more than 10 times the level than can be supported given current program resources.

Each LOI has been evaluated against the TIFIA statutory criteria, and the Tappan Zee Bridge project performed well in our review.  Unfortunately, the Department does not have sufficient budgetary resources to invite an application for your project at this time.  In light of those constraints, the Department prioritized projects that could be accommodated within resource levels and required financing in the nearest time frame.  However, if TIFIA budgetary resources are significantly increased as proposed in the President's Budget and the House and Senate reauthorization proposals, we will create an expedited review process for those funds.  We encourage you to continue the planning and financial work necessary to move your project if and when that review process takes place.  Please note that even with an augmented program, the level of TIFIA credit assistance may still be constrained, which could impact the amount available for the Tappan Zee Bridge project.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Duane

Duane Callender
Director
TIFIA Credit Program  (HITJ)
US Department of Transportation

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Transportation Nation

Environmental, Transit Groups to NY State: Tappan Zee Without Transit is Fatally Flawed

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Tappan Zee Bridge (photo by Patsy Wooters via Flickr)

Environmental group Riverkeeper is calling New York State's plans for a new Tappan Zee Bridge "a a fatally flawed project that is obsolete from day one without mass transit, and would inflict severe damage on the Hudson River ecosystem."

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign says the state must figure out a way to include transit on the bridge.

The groups' comments were submitted in response to the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) released earlier this year. That statement, which is part of the review process the state must undergo for the project, says there are no compelling environmental barriers to constructing a new bridge. The period for public comment on the DEIS closed last week.

New York State wants to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge with a $5.2 billion span built so as to "not preclude" transit in the future, and has said that the cost of including a bus rapid transit corridor would be as expensive as building the bridge itself. But some environmental groups call those numbers flawed, and say that if the state doesn't include transit, the bridge will be outdated from the moment it opens.

“Governor Cuomo is trying to circumvent all of New York’s planning and public participation laws and ‘Robert Moses’ this project,” said Paul Gallay, Riverkeeper's president, in a statement. "The governor doesn’t get to make up his own rules, but even if he did, he’s getting this one all wrong. Riverkeeper is not about to stand by when so much damage to the river is about to be done by such a flawed project."

Kate Slevin, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, told TN "we're still hoping that the state will come to its senses and provide some provisions for transit in this project." She said there are still many unanswered questions about the project, and wants the state to address them before moving forward.

The New York State Thruway Authority, which is managing the project, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The state has previously said it will submit its final environmental impact statement to the federal government by July, and hopes to begin construction of the new bridge in late summer or early autumn.

Riverkeeper's comments can be found here. TSTC's comments, which are co-signed by several other groups, are here.

 

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WNYC News

NY Environmental Group Objects to Tappan Zee Plan

Monday, April 02, 2012

New York should slow down the "breakneck" push toward a new Tappan Zee Bridge and take another look at alternatives including simply rehabilitating the existing Hudson River span, a key environmental group said Monday.

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Transportation Nation

From the NYS Archives: 1955 Promotional Film of Tappan Zee Bridge

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The new Tappan Zee Bridge is moving forward -- both in the Hudson River and on the internet.

This week workers began driving the first of 28 piles that will hold river platforms in place. And New York State also unveiled its new project website (the older version can still be found here.)

The videos section of the site has a promotional film made by the New York State Thruway Authority to commemorate the 1955 opening of the bridge. It has everything you could hope for in a 50's-era film: the authoritative-yet-soothing male narrator, cheery background music, an American flag waving on the bridge's foundation. There are also some fascinating facts about the construction process, including a component list of what went into making the bridge ("it has over 27 acres of pavement" -- not to mention 74,000 tons of steel). Also of note:  the caissons were constructed in a dry basin ten miles away -- and then the basin was flooded so the structures could be towed into the Hudson.

One other thing: the bridge cost $60 million to build. The new bridge is slated to cost almost a hundred times that.

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Transportation Nation

Tappan Zee Bridge Public Comment Period Extended

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS (photo by Kate Hinds)

The public comment period for the Tappan Zee Bridge project has been extended by two weeks.

The U.S. Department of Transportation confirmed Wednesday that the new deadline is March 30. Previously, the deadline for the public to weigh in had been March 15th.

New York State has been moving forward on a $5.2 billion plan to replace the aging bridge, which stretches across the Hudson and connects Rockland and Westchester Counties. In late January it released a massive draft environmental impact statement about the project. Last week, hundreds of people showed up to speak at a pair of hearings about the project -- and several members of the public asked that the comment period be extended.

A spokesman for the federal government said the change has been made to accommodate everyone who wanted to comment on the project. The additional 15 days is not expected to change the overall project delivery schedule.

To learn more about the Tappan Zee Bridge public comment process, visit the project website here.

 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Detroit's Furious Bus Riders, NYC Taxis To Remove "Off-Duty" Signs, LA To Get More Bikeways

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Transit, Jobs, Construction Noise: Rockland Residents Air Worries About Swiftly Approaching Tappan Zee Bridge Project (Link)
Transit Museum Forum on Back of the Bus is TONIGHT (Link)
NY City Council Bill Would Up Electric Bike Fine (Link)
Study: Only 28 Percent of Neighborhoods Affordable (Link)
As GOP Struggles in Michigan, Obama Chortles — Says Fuel Efficient Cars Will Save $8000 (Link)
New Prospect Park Drive: Defined Lanes, Less Room for Cars (Link)

A Detroit bus stop. (By Flickr user JSmith Photo)

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica thinks that critics who believe Congress can pass a better transportation bill next year are “smoking the funny weed.” (Politico)

Detroit transit riders are outraged over huge bus cuts -- and the mayor's hiring of a private contractor to manage the city's troubled transportation department -- and plan to seek federal help in reversing the mayor's decisions. (Detroit Free Press)

New York Times editorial: the proposed Tappan Zee greenway "could be a splendid public attraction." (Link)

NYC cabs will have to start removing their taxi-top 'off-duty' signs to make way for the new system: available if the medallion number is lit, or unavailable if it’s dark. (New York Daily News)

Rules requiring rear-view video cameras in cars have been delayed again. (AP via Yahoo Finance)

Megabus' weighty double-decker coaches, currently being investigated by New York's Department of Transportation, have run afoul of authorities from Canada to Maryland. (DNA Info)

Worried Democrats want Obama to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gas prices. (The Hill)

The mayor of London said some lines on the Underground would have driverless trains in two years. (Telegraph)

Commercial truck traffic on the NJ Turnpike has declined by 7.5%; high fuel prices and last month's toll hike are cited as possible reasons why. (Star-Ledger)

Nearly five months after a $50 million HOT lane project opened in metro Atlanta, drivers remain dubious, the impact on traffic is unclear, and many questions remain unanswered. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

830 miles of new bikeways have been approved for Los Angeles County. (LAist)

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WNYC News

Residents Raise Concerns as Tappan Zee Bridge Construction Looms

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New York state needs to slow the Tappan Zee Bridge process down, add transit and make sure there are strong design standards in place, according to Rockland County residents at the first public hearing on the bridge project Tuesday night.

 

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Transportation Nation

Transit, Jobs, Construction Noise: Rockland Residents Air Worries About Swiftly Approaching Tappan Zee Bridge Project

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New York State needs to slow the Tappan Zee Bridge process down, transit it up, and make sure there are strong design standards in place.

That was the feeling in a packed community room in Nyack, where Rockland County residents turned out in droves for the first public hearing on the bridge project since New York State released its massive environmental impact statement last month.

It was standing room only at the hearing in Nyack's Palisades Center Mall (photo by Kate Hinds)

Catherine McCue, a resident of South Nyack, said that the accelerated pace of the bridge's approval process worried her. She said she felt like she didn't have enough time to digest the state's massive draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which was released late last month, has 23 chapters, and over a thousand pages.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS (photo by Kate Hinds)

"We are really struggling to understand what this is, and to have good knowledge about what is being proposed here," she said. She wants the public comment period -- currently scheduled to end on March 15 -- extended.

"It's like a fast-moving train that's on a collision course," said McCue, "because we don't have the information that we need to feel that this is in scale with the community which has to live with this project."

But while residents try to understand how the construction process of a $5.2 billion twin-spanned bridge would impact their lives, the state continued to hammer the message home that the bridge needs to be replaced -- now.

Like the previous hearing in October, Michael Anderson, the New York State Department of Transportation project director, kicked off the presentation by once again making the case for the rebuild. "There are inherent vulnerabilities in the design of the (current) bridge," he said, and quoted estimates that it would cost $1.3 billion over the next decade just to maintain it.  “(There are) several significant issues in the main span, which has to do with substandard foundations which need to be replaced," he said, as well as "a significant number of structural members that need to be replaced or retrofitted."

(photo by Kate Hinds)

He went through the DEIS, which found no major stumbling blocks to replacing the bridge. Anderson did supply the packed room with a moment of much-needed levity: at one point while ticking off federal regulations, he stumbled over a word. “Section 4F is the applicable federal regulation regarding ... wildlife refugees – excuse me, refuge -- wildlife refuges." The crowd laughed, and Anderson decided to drop some Latin on them: "Refugi, I guess.”

Then came the public comment session, which was top-heavy with elected officials -- relegating members of the public who signed up to speak until the end, in front of an ever-dwindling crowd and amidst increasingly noisy room chatter.  Like October's hearing, many expressed dismay with the lack of transit on the new bridge. C. Scott Vanderhoef, the Rockland County executive, said he was delighted that the governor was expediting the bridge. "But it also needs to be looked at in terms of the broader issue of what it means to Rockland County, Westchester County and our region. And that means you simply can’t at the last minute think of some sort of mass transportation issue. Transit has to be a part of a consideration of this bridge – it cannot be an afterthought."

Jen White, the mayor of Nyack, said: “We need to know that there’s a future transit option being detailed – not just talked about.” She added: "We need an accountable construction process that can mitigate noise and air pollution and harm to our river. And I believe we need a bit more time and a bit more access to information to work these things out."

The state has said it will design the bridge so as to not preclude transit -- but that it can't afford to put transit on it right now.

Exactly what the new bridge will look like is not clear. The state said it's considering two separate options: an arch design and a cable-stayed design. The state is using a design-build process, which it says will save money and time. But what that also means is that the company awarded the contract will have a certain amount of leeway with details -- and that worries some residents.

(photo by Kate Hinds)

Harriet Cornell, chairwoman of the Rockland County legislature, said: "As the symbol of the lower Hudson Valley, there is no reason this bridge should not be the most beautiful structure in the New York metropolitan region." But, she added: "unfortunately what comes across in the DEIS is a very utilitarian approach to bridge design...there is no mention of building a bridge that is worthy of the majestic Hudson and the lower Hudson Valley, nor does it indicate aesthetic goals."

what an arch-design Tappan Zee could look like (photo by Kate Hinds)

One person advocated for a design competition on par with the one that had awarded Lorenzo Brunelleschi the commission to build the Duomo in Florence in 1418. Another wanted a 'Citizens Design Review Committee.'

Also packing the room: construction workers who don't want to see the process slowed down.  Ross Pepe is president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester and Hudson Valley -- although he said he was speaking on behalf of replacethetzbridgenow.org. "Right now New Yorkers need two things: jobs and a new bridge," he said. "The decision is easy...the decisive moment has arrived:  build the new Hudson River crossing now."

Side note: there was no mention of how the bridge will be financed (New York has requested a $2 billion loan from the federal government, but no other details are available). And although advocates at the hearing spoke on behalf of turning the current Tappan Zee Bridge into a greenway, no one from the state addressed it.

(photo by Kate Hinds)

There will be another public hearing on the project this Thursday in Westchester County. Officials say the state aims to submit the final environmental impact statement to the federal government by July, and hopes to begin construction late this summer or early this fall.

Note left on the public comment table (photo by Kate Hinds)

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Transportation Nation

NY Gov Considering Tappan Zee Greenway Proposal

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tappan Zee Bridge (Nrbelex/WNYC)

(Brian Zumhagen -- WNYC) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state is considering turning the existing Tappan Zee Bridge into a "greenway" instead of demolishing it when a new adjacent span is built.

Such a move would turn the current 57-year-old bridge into a walkway, similar to the one spanning the Hudson 45 miles upriver at Poughkeepsie.

Officials have said a new bridge carrying the NY Thruway between Rockland and Westchester counties would cost $5.2 billion, with rail lines and bus lanes costing billions more if added to the project -- something transit advocates have been advocating fiercely for, even running radio ads to pressure Cuomo. The current plans for the replacement bridge, supported by Governor Cuomo, has no mass transit option.

Cuomo says turning the current Tappan Zee into a crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists would offer outstanding views and recreational opportunities for visitors.

The walkway idea has been raised by town of Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner.

With the Associated Press

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WNYC News

Cuomo Considering Turning Tappan Zee Bridge into a Walkway

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state is considering turning the Tappan Zee Bridge into a "greenway" instead of demolishing it when a new adjacent span is built.

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