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Cuomo Says Tappan Zee Plan Is on ‘Phenomenally Rapid’ Pace

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said a construction team may be chosen in the next six months to build a $5.2 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge and that he’s considering turning the old span over the Hudson River into a pedestrian greenway.

The pathway for pedestrians and cyclists would be similar to the Walkway Over the Hudson, a state park built on the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge that has drawn almost 500,000 visitors a year. Tearing down the bridge would cost $150 million, Cuomo said today at a Cabinet meeting in Albany.

In the last decade, New York has spent $88 million on studies and held more than 430 public meetings where it presented 150 proposals to replace the Tappan Zee, he said.

“Ten years worth of talking, and now in a matter of months so much progress has been made,” Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, said. “This is a phenomenally rapid process.”

In December, the state applied for a $2 billion federal loan, and earlier this month it announced that four construction teams, including companies such as Fluor Corp., Bechtel Group Inc., Skanska AB and Grupo Dragados SA, were in the running to win the project. President Barack Obama in October named building a new Tappan Zee as one of 14 U.S. projects to be sped through the federal oversight process.

Job Creation

Final proposals for the project, which would create more than 45,000 jobs, will be submitted in June and the winning group will be announced this summer, Cuomo said today. The state is using the so-called design-build process to speed the construction timeline, he said. Approved by lawmakers in December, the process puts private companies in charge of designing and building the project, rather than having the state develop the plan and then put it out for bid.

The three-mile-long (4.8-kilometer) Tappan Zee, which connects Rockland and Westchester counties as part of the New York State Thruway system, carries 138,000 vehicles a day, 40 percent more than its original design intended, according to the application for the $2 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan.

New York’s project is one of 26 seeking a total of $13 billion in Tifia loans, the U.S. Transportation Department said in a statement e-mailed Feb. 15. The program has about $1.1 billion available, and New York is asking that its $2 billion be spread out over several years.

Mass Transit

The Tappan Zee design plan will immediately allow for a rapid-bus transit line and light rail, Cuomo said. Those commuter systems haven’t been built yet, and doing so could cost about $5.2 billion for the buses and $5 billion for the rail, he said.

“We’re actually building a bridge that’s ahead of the existing system,” Cuomo said. “I think it’s a prudent investment because it’s a smart idea, and if we can’t afford it now, we can down the road.”

The state hired Jeffrey A. Parker & Associates in December to help develop the funding plans for the new bridge. The federal loan would be secured by revenue collected statewide by the Thruway Authority, which totaled $660 million in 2011, including $130 million from the Tappan Zee, the loan application said. Other options include selling bonds-backed by tolls, and pension funds or other private investment, Cuomo said today.

“The main funding stream will be tolls,” he said.

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