New York board backs plan for new Tappan Zee bridge
Aug 20 (Reuters) - The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council on Monday voted unanimously in favor of a $5.4 billion project to build a new Tappan Zee bridge, giving New York state the go ahead to formally apply for a federal loan.
The new bridge across the Hudson River north of New York City, linking Westchester County on the west side to Rockland County on the east, has been added to the list of $984 billion in projects planned from 2010 to 2035 for the downstate region covered by the Council.
Environmental and transportation groups, however, criticized the state's failure to release a detailed financial plan.
"I think the funding is the big question in the room," said Phillip Musegaas, director of the Hudson River Program for Riverkeeper, a clean water advocacy group.
Howard Glaser, director of state operations, said the final cost of the project would not be known until the Thruway Authority completes negotiations with the three developers who are bidding on the new bridge.
"I don't tell somebody what is in my wallet when I am negotiating," he said at the Council meeting. "Once we have the cost, the financial plan is built off that," he said.
The Tappan Zee carries 138,000 vehicles every day, or nearly 40 percent more traffic than for which it was originally designed. The span's accident rate is double the average of the 574-mile state Thruway, and traffic jams quickly develop because it has no lanes or shoulders for emergency vehicles.
New York hopes to get a $2 billion loan from the federal government under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program to replace the existing span, which has aged poorly and would cost $3 billion to $4 billion to fix.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has told the Thruway Authority to find ways to reduce a proposed rise in the cash toll to $14, from $5 now, which the authority initially said would be needed to pay for the bridge when it opens in 2017.
The pricetag for the bridge previously was estimated at $5.2 billion, but the resolution the Council voted on said the $5.4 billion figure was the estimate that should be used for planning.
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