The design-build team for the $5.2-billion Tappan Zee bridge replacement project will be chosen this summer, said Thomas Madison, executive director of the NYS Thruway Authority. Transportation officials hope that the selected team, which will be chosen from four that were shortlisted on Feb. 7, will start construction by year-end, said Madison, who spoke at a lecture sponsored by The Moles on May 2.
Other upcoming deadlines include completion in August of an extensive environmental review that was issued concurrently with the RFP for design and construction.
Plans call for the new bridge, which will be owned and operated by the Thruway Authority, to be built adjacent to the existing 56-year-old bridge that was designed to last only 50 years, Madison said. "The [existing] bridge’s accident rate is more than two-times the state thruway average and has no emergency lanes or shoulders."
The new bridge is expected to significantly change that with key provisions outlined in the RFP calling for full shoulders and emergency access. RFP provisions for transit include 12-ft-wide, shared-use paths for bikes, pedestrians and public artwork.
Among the challenges with this project, however, is funding. "The multibillion-dollar question is how will we be paying for this project," Madison acknowledged.
The state had sought but did not receive a $2-billion federal loan this year under the Dept. of Transportation’s (DOT) Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. Madison said that the state will continue to seek TIFIA funding in the future as well as a DOT Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. He did not specify the amounts.
The state also expects to raise funds for the project via toll increases "consistent with the other Hudson River crossings," toll-backed bonds, and pension fund and other private investment options.
Madison praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s "new vision" that includes a focus on this bridge. He said that the governor "brought some major characteristics" to the project including accelerating the building process itself and "prioritizing" the design-build law that was passed last December. Cuomo also called for the new structure to last for at least 100 years, Madison added.
"Over the last 10 years, there have been discussions over what to do [to replace the existing bridge]—more than 430 public meetings and 150 proposals in that time" and "an extraordinary" amount of time and money invested, Madison said. But “there was no one putting a stake in the ground and saying, ‘This is how we should move forward,’” Madison added. The governor’s push has helped to do that, he said.