The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has approved a $1.6-billion loan for the replacement of New York's Tappan Zee Bridge. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made the announcement Oct. 31, calling it "the largest loan the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has ever made for any project like this."

The loan was made through the DOT's Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. Established in 1998, TIFIA has ramped up its lending recently, spurred by last year's Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). The DOT also began taking steps earlier this year to speed up the TIFIA loan approval process.

"In terms of our financing scenarios, this was the best," Gov. Cuomo said in an interview on WCNY's Capitol Pressroom radio program on Oct. 31. "The federal government could have approved the loan, but [it might have been] only ten percent or twenty percent. They do loans that are normally in the range of $200 million, $300 million...our fear was the federal government would come back and say we're gonna give you a loan which is on the high side of our usual loan amount. And because this project was so big, that wouldn't really do much for us." He added, "I was aware of how much we were asking for, but it was a big project and we needed a big loan."

The new Tappan Zee Bridge is expected to cost under $4 billion and be completed in 2018, according to Gov. Cuomo's office. Work so far on the project has been financed through bond sales by the New York State Thruway Authority. In a press statement, Thruway Authority Chairman Howard P. Milstein said "the Thruway Authority is grateful for Governor Cuomo’s strong leadership and support for this project, as well as the support we have received from President Obama and the U.S. Department of Transportation."

Work on the new Tappan Zee Bridge officially began two weeks ago, with the installation of the first permanent piles that will make up the foundation of the new bridge. The dual-span structure will replace the existing Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, which first opened to traffic in 1955.