Plans to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge have moved a step forward with the federal government’s approval of the final environmental impact statement for the project. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced yesterday, Sept. 25, that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a record of decision (ROD) approving the state’s plan for the $5-billion-plus bridge replacement. The move is the final step in the review of the project’s environmental impact.

“With this major milestone, New York once again is demonstrating that we can make government work efficiently and effectively for the people of the state, and we can take a large step toward building a safer, better and more reliable bridge,” Cuomo said in a statement.

President Barack Obama’s “fast-track” of the project on Oct. 11, 2011 helped to accelerate the environmental review, Cuomo’s office says. A draft environmental impact statement was published in January 2012, which was followed by public hearings in which 1,100 individuals attended and 3,000 written comments on the review were submitted, it adds.

The federal approval follows an Aug. 20th meeting in which New York Metropolitan Transportation Council members voted unanimously to approve resolutions that allow for the planned replacement project to progress to the next stage.

Cuomo followed that up with a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood saying that New York is seeking funding under the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The TIFIA program helps to fund major transportation projects.

Many federal and state agencies were in daily contact and met weekly during the environmental review process leading to the ROD, Cuomo’s office says. These include the Environmental Protection Agency; National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; Dept. of Environmental Conservation; Dept. of State; Office of General Services; Dept. of Transportation; and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.