News Wrap: Most of TZB Loan Nixed; & NJT's $1.3B; Conn. Brownfields; More M&A; MTA Safety Needs
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has invalidated most of a $511-million loan for 12 projects related to New York's Tappan Zee Bridge replacement work, contending that the span's construction activities do not advance the water quality mandates as specified by the loan program. The agency says it will, however, award $29.1 million to five of the 12 projects.
The move is a major blow to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who sought the funding under EPA's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program to help pay for the $3.9-billion span, his signature bridge project. The program allows the state's Environmental Facilities Corp. (EFC) to administer low-cost loans to local governments and agencies for drinking water, wastewater infrastructure and other clean-water projects.
"EPA recognizes the state's commitment to replacing the bridge and that federal loan dollars have been provided by the Department of Transportation," Joan Leary Matthews, an EPA regional director, said in a Sept. 16 letter to state EFC and Dept. of Environmental Conservation officials. "However, construction activities arising from transportation projects do not advance water quality, and CWSRF funding should not be used for these purposes."
After the announcement, Cuomo was quoted as telling reporters that the construction "was never dependent on the loan in the first place."
The EFC echoes that sentiment. "While this loan is not integral to the overall bridge construction, the projects identified here will clearly provide significant benefits for the Hudson River estuary," Jon Sorensen, an EFC spokesman, said in a statement. "EPA Region II is simply wrong in its assessment. We will appeal this decision."
The governor said last June that the loan would go toward work to protect the Hudson River estuary's water quality and marine life and that it would "help keep any potential future toll increases down by greatly reducing the interest rates and financing costs for a significant portion" of the project's overall cost.
Environmental groups, including Riverkeeper, widely praised EPA's decision. "Riverkeeper said this loan wouldn't pass federal review and, sure enough, the EPA has struck almost all of it down. Good for them," Paul Gallay, president of Hudson Riverkeeper, said in a statement.
The proposed state projects eligible for the CWSRF funding are the $1.4-million Gay's Point restoration; the $800,000 Piermont Marsh restoration; the $14.4-million Stormwater Management Measures work; and the $2.8-million combined Net Conservation Benefit Plan and the Atlantic Sturgeon Outreach Program. A further $9.7 million is slated for non-construction costs.
Proposed projects deemed ineligible for the program are the $65-million removal of the existing bridge; the $110.2-million dredging for construction vessels work; the $29.9-million Armoring the Hudson River Bottom plan; the $48-million underwater noise attenuation system; a $66.7-million shared-use plan; a $1.2-million oyster bed restoration; and a $100,000 falcon nest box. A further $160.7 million was proposed to cover non-construction costs.
Under the NYS Thruway Authority, construction of the two-span bridge, dubbed the "New NY Bridge," began in October 2013 and is targeting completion in 2018. Last October, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation awarded the state $1.6 billion via a Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act loan for the project.
New York And New Jersey
N.J. Transit Gets $1.3B for Storm Resiliency Work
The Federal Transit Administration has awarded New Jersey Transit $1.3 billion for five projects designed to harden infrastructure, Gov. Chris Christie's office recently announced.
The projects are the previously announced NJ TransitGrid, a first-of-its-kind electrical microgrid capable of supplying power during storms or at other times when the centralized power grid is compromised; the Raritan River Drawbridge Replacement, which sustained heavy damage from Superstorm Sandy; the Hoboken Long Slip Flood Projection; the Delco Lead Train Safe Haven Storage and Service Restoration Project, which will provide storage for 312 rail cars; and the Train Controls/Wayside Signals, Power & Communication Resiliency Project, which aims to protect systems.
Malloy Adds $27M to Brownfield Cleanup Funds
Connecticut is ramping up its brownfield site cleanup plan by making available a total of $27 million in grants and loans for 20 projects statewide. The funding is in addition to the $62.6 million that the state has already spent on site remediation since 2012, said Gov. Dannel Malloy in a recent statement.
Most of the 20 planned redevelopment sites include market-rate and affordable housing projects. the state Dept. of Housing says.
"Many of Connecticut's brownfield sites have been abandoned or underutilized for decades because the costs of redeveloping these properties are too expensive for municipalities or private developers to take on themselves," Malloy says.
Those awarded the latest round of funding include a $4-million grant to Science Park Development Corp. for the adaptive reuse of the abandoned Winchester Repeating Arms Facility in New Haven. Plans call for building a 200-unit residential complex. Another project involves a $2-million loan to 60 Main Street LLC for work that includes residential housing in the Park/University section of Bridgeport.