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Mon October 24, 2011 - Northeast Edition
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) The cost of a new Tappan Zee Bridge in the New York City suburbs has been shaved to $5.2 billion by focusing solely on the bridge, a federal agency said Oct. 11.
In the past, mass transit components, ranging up to a new commuter rail line, were considered key elements of a new span over the Hudson River.
President Barack Obama chose the project Oct. 10 for quick federal approval of environmental and other permits, and the Federal Highway Administration said those could be obtained within a year. Construction, creating thousands of jobs, could begin soon afterward, it said.
The FHA said the 56-year-old bridge “is functionally obsolete and will soon be structurally deficient.” It warned that travel restrictions might be imposed if the bridge isn’t replaced.
The Tappan Zee carries the state Thruway, and about 140,000 vehicles a day, across the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties, about 25 mi. north of Manhattan. Deterioration has set in, and maintaining it has been costing the state up to $100 million a year.
In 2008, several designs for a new bridge were unveiled, with costs estimated at the time at $9 billion to $16 billion depending on which mass transit options were included. The possibilities ranged from upgraded bus service to light rail to an east-west commuter rail line that would link several existing north-south routes.
The FHA said the cost could have exceeded $21 billion.
Instead, “The project has been re-scoped to focus solely on the bridge,” bringing it down to $5.2 billion, the FHA said. Transit components are “currently not a part of the design,” it said.
It wasn’t immediately clear which, if any, mass transit enhancements could be added later.
Even the trimmed project will deliver at least 33,000 “job years” in construction and materials production, the agency said, referring to the level of economic investment. One person working for four years on the bridge, for example, would be four job years.
No funds have been officially earmarked for the project, authorities said.
“As of right now, there is no funding in the [state] budget,” said Jessica Proud, spokeswoman of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who has been pushing for a quick start on the project. “We’ve asked the governor to put it in his five-year capital plan, but it’s not, yet.”
However, the FHA said New York plans to pay for most of the project — $3 billion — with bonds secured by anticipated tolls. It said the state also plans to tap labor pension funds, federal loans and other sources.
Josh Vlasto, a spokesman of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said only that the state is considering “a variety of funding options.” He said obtaining federal approvals while the project is being finalized could save years.
The bridge project was suggested by Cuomo when Obama called for infrastructure projects that would help produce jobs. The governor said Oct. 11 that the federal government had recognized that “moving forward with the project is key to New York’s economic future.”
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