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N.Y. Transportation Board Backs Cuomo’s Tappan Zee Bridge

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build a new $5.2 billion Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River was approved by a nine-member committee, allowing the state to get federal funds including a $2 billion loan.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council unanimously approved the project plan today in a special meeting in Manhattan. The council’s backing lets the state get federal funding for the bridge, which won’t cost more than $5.2 billion, Brian Conybeare, a special adviser to Cuomo, said last week. The state’s application for a federal loan wouldn’t have moved forward without the committee’s nod.

Hours after the vote, Cuomo sent a letter to Ray Lahood, U.S. transportation secretary, asking him to consider New York’s request for the loan.

“After over a decade of delay caused by political dysfunction, this letter demonstrates that we are making real progress towards constructing a stronger, transit-ready bridge that will reduce congestion for year to come,” Cuomo said in an e-mailed statement.

Cuomo, 54, has made building the new span a priority. Part of the New York State Thruway system, the 3.1-mile (5-kilometer) Tappan Zee connects Westchester and Rockland counties about 20 miles north of Manhattan. It carries 138,000 vehicles each day, 40 percent more than its design intended.

Car Costs

Getting federal support for the project is necessary to keep down the cost of tolls on the new span, Cuomo has said. The first-term Democrat has faced political pressure since his administration released projections this month that tolls may almost triple to $14 for cash customers, from the current $5, to help pay for the bridge. Commuters with a discount plan would pay $8.40, rather than $3 now.

In June, Congress approved a bill that provided $1.7 billion in funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act over two years, up from $120 million in fiscal 2012. The extra cash allows the Federal Highway Administration to issue $17 billion in loans, it said in a July statement.

The council includes elected leaders from Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties, New York City planning officials and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs subways, buses and trains in the New York City area. It is responsible for developing and implementing regional transportation plans, and its approval is required for projects in the region to receive federal funding.

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