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Mass Transit Cut From New Tappan Zee Bridge, Lowering Cost To $5.2 Billion

The Tappan Zee Bridge is seen on Jun 27, 2008 (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

The Tappan Zee Bridge is seen on Jun 27, 2008 (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

88adams Sean Adams
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TARRYTOWN, NY (AP / WCBS 880) – The cost of a new Tappan Zee Bridge has been shaved to $5.2 billion by focusing solely on the bridge, a federal agency said Tuesday.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams On The Story

In the past, mass transit components, ranging up to a new commuter rail line, were considered key elements of a new span over the Hudson River. They can still be added at a later date.

The toll for crossing the bridge is expected to go up, but there is no word on how much.

President Barack Obama chose the project Monday for quick federal approval of environmental and other permits, and the Federal Highway Administration said those could be obtained within a year. Construction, creating thousands of jobs, could begin soon afterward, it said.

The FHA said the 56-year-old bridge “is functionally obsolete and will soon be structurally deficient.” It warned that travel restrictions might be imposed if the bridge isn’t replaced.

The Tappan Zee carries the state Thruway, and about 140,000 vehicles a day, across the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties, about 25 miles north of Manhattan. Deterioration has set in, and maintaining it has been costing the state up to $100 million a year.

In 2008, several designs for a new bridge were unveiled, with costs estimated at the time at $9 billion to $16 billion depending on which mass transit options were included. The possibilities ranged from upgraded bus service to light rail to an east-west commuter rail line that would link several existing north-south routes.

The FHA said the cost could have exceeded $21 billion.

Instead, “The project has been re-scoped to focus solely on the bridge,” bringing it down to $5.2 billion, the FHA said. Transit components are “currently not a part of the design,” it said.

It wasn’t immediately clear which, if any, mass transit enhancements could be added later.

Even the trimmed project will deliver at least 33,000 “job years” in construction and materials production, the agency said, referring to the level of economic investment. One person working for four years on the bridge, for example, would be four job years.

No funds have been officially earmarked for the project, authorities said.

“As of right now, there is no funding in the (state) budget,” said Jessica Proud, spokeswoman for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who has been pushing for a quick start on the project. “We’ve asked the governor to put it in his five-year capital plan, but it’s not, yet.”

However, the FHA said New York plans to pay for most of the project – $3 billion – with bonds secured by anticipated tolls. It said the state also plans to tap labor pension funds, federal loans and other sources.

Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said only that the state is considering “a variety of funding options.” He said obtaining federal approvals while the project is being finalized could save years.

The bridge project was suggested by Cuomo when Obama called for infrastructure projects that would help produce jobs. The governor said Tuesday that the federal government had recognized that “moving forward with the project is key to New York’s economic future.”

Do you feel safe driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge? Sound off in the comments section below!

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)