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Six Possibilities Still Alive for Future of Tappan Zee Bridge

Wed October 19, 2005 - Northeast Edition

WHITE PLAINS, NY (AP) Six options for the future of the 50-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge — including doing nothing, basically —have made it through to the next round, and the possibility of a tunnel under the Hudson River has been eliminated.

The long-delayed proposals, winnowed from 15 “scenarios” issued last year, range from maintaining the bridge in its existing condition to a grand scheme that would build a new, 10-lane bridge and an east-west commuter rail line from Suffern, in Rockland County, to Port Chester in eastern Westchester.

The gracefully curving Tappan Zee spans the Hudson from Tarrytown to Nyack as part of the state Thruway. Aging and overused, it causes long traffic jams during rush hours and requires nonstop maintenance. Gov. George Pataki said in 1999 that a new bridge might be needed.

The state Thruway Authority, the state Transportation Department and the Metro-North Railroad heard a wide variety of suggestions — even one to use hot-air balloons to take people across the river –— and came up with the 15 possibilities, now reduced to six.

The six alternatives will be presented to the Inter-Metropolitan Planning Organization, made up of federal state and county officials, which will again seek public opinions before further limiting the possibilities. Environmental reviews remain.

The six surviving possibilities:

• Maintain the seven-lane bridge and Interstate 287 in existing condition. The estimated cost, in 2004 dollars: $500 to $700 million.

• Rehabilitate the existing bridge — including a retrofit for earthquakes — and add bus priority, park-and-ride facilities and other improvements to the highways. Cost: $2 billion to $2.5 billion.

• Build a new 10-lane bridge, including two lanes for high-occupancy vehicles or drivers willing to pay extra, and a bus system that would run from Suffern to Port Chester. The bridge could handle pedestrians, cyclists, picnickers and anglers. Climbing lanes for slow vehicles would be added in Rockland County. Cost: $5 billion to $6.5 billion.

• A new bridge with the same 10 traffic lanes plus two railroad tracks for a commuter rail line from Suffern to Port Chester. The rail line would connect to Metro-North’s existing north-south lines at Tarrytown, White Plains and Port Chester, which run south to Manhattan. There would be highway improvements in Rockland. Cost: $11.5 billion to $14.5 billion.

• Same as the plan above, but the commuter rail line would run only between Suffern and Tarrytown. A light rail line would continue east from Tarrytown to Port Chester, connecting to existing north-south rail lines in White Plains and Port Chester. Cost: $10 billion to $12.5 billion.

• Same as the plan above, but with buses replacing the light rail. Cost: $9 billion to $11.5 billion.

The agencies said a highway tunnel or rail tunnel under the river were eliminated because of “environmental and community impacts, construction risks, safety and security concerns, and higher cost.”

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