Friday, August 17, 2012

Bids For Tappan Zee Replacement Come In Under $5.2 Billion

I'm not quite sure that we should take this as good news: bids for the Tappan Zee bridge replacement have come in under $5.2 billion. The good news is that the building conglomerates think that the bridge could be built for less than the NYS Thruway Authority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have estimated.

The bad news is that the bids could simply be underestimating the amounts so as to win the bid, and that the costs will end up being at or above the $5.2 billion level.

One has to wonder just how stringent the Thruway Authority will be in determining how accurate the estimated costs will be, and whether everyone inflated costs on the project. After all, one has to wonder why construction costs are as high as they are, when we aren't getting as much for our money as we should expect.

If, and it's a huge if, the bids can keep to their budget of under $5.2 billion, it should keep the overall toll increases down, and should provide an opportunity to include bus rapid transit to be rolled into the construction phase, rather than waiting until some indeterminate point in the future to have a second construction phase to link bus rapid transit or commuter rail on the bridge.

The state and Thruway Authority need to impress on the New York Congressional delegation to make sure that the federal government provides funding for the bridge, which is integral to the Interstate system and a key link across the Hudson River (the closest Interstate links are 30 miles south (George Washington Bridge) and 35 miles north (Newburgh Beacon Bridge). That makes the bridge essential to interstate traffic and it's a major bypass for truck traffic looking to avoid traffic on the George Washington Bridge heading into New England from New Jersey and points south.

Thus far, it appears that the state is hoping to get a $2 billion federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan to help cover the cost, but the bulk of the financing is going to come from bonds backed by toll hikes.

Toll hikes across the entire Thruway Authority are possible, but there's opposition to hikes across the entire system, even though the benefits are spread across the entire system. Toll hikes are also a concern since much of the currently imposed tolls are going to debt service that was rolled over and extended rather than allowing the tolls to expire across the state.

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