Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement Gets Thumbs Up From Federal Highway Officials

The $5+ billion plan to replace the Tappan Zee bridge got the thumbs up from federal highway officials, paving the way for New York to award the contract for a design-build to begin work on the bridge.
The federal record of decision confirms the project has met requirements under state and federal environmental law, including completing an environmental impact study, a 10,000-page document that details how the state would protect nearby communities and river wildlife during construction. A dozen federal and state agencies contributed to the document, and the draft report received more than 3,000 comments from the public.

Cuomo last week announced the creation of a selection committee, made up of artists, architects and community representatives, to evaluate each of the proposals and make a final recommendation to the Thruway Authority’s board of directors. A design-builder is likely to be selected before the end of the year.

While federal approval lets the project proceed, possible lawsuits still threaten to hold it up.

The Hudson Riverkeeper, which has criticized the plan for not adequately addressing how river life will be negatively affected, has said it would wait for the federal decision before deciding whether to take legal action.

The state must still provide a detailed financial plan, but officials have said they are hoping a low-interest federal loan will cover about half the project cost. The rest would be paid for through toll-backed bonds.
While the approvals are good news, it isn't clear to what extent mass transit - whether bus rapid transit or commuter rail, will be incorporated into the designs other than the potential to build out those components at some future point in time. The time to build in the bus rapid transit is at the outset, and while it would only address the bridge span and approaches, the entire Rockland-Westchester corridor could be adapted to bus rapid transit in phases as the state's economic situation improves.

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