NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council has approved a $5.4 billion plan to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge.
The board voted unanimously Monday to approve the project.
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The county executives of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam had said last week they would vote in favor of the project. Each of the three in effect held veto power because the council must approve a project unanimously to qualify it for federal funds.
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Under the current plan, the bridge will have a dedicated bus lane during rush hours but ambitious plans for a commuter rail line or bus mass transit were dropped for financial reasons.
Cuomo has agreed to the formation of a task force that will make mass transit recommendations within a year.
The environmental group Riverkeeper released a statement calling the vote “a major departure from past promises of transparency and inclusiveness.”
The group claims the vote violated public process and the project lacks a financial plan — required by federal and state law — detailing what revenues will be “reasonably available” to pay for the bridge replacement.
“In the business world, no reputable company would hold a vote on, let alone approve a $5 billion investment on the basis of a sketchy, one-page financial plan, especially from a business that’s already having problems with its bond rating, like the Thruway Authority,” stated Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper.
However, New York State Director of Operations Howard Glaser stated there is no need to develop a financial plan until after the construction bids are released.
On Friday, the group criticized officials for giving only three days’ notice for a vote on the plan.
Many expected to vote to be sometime in September, but the Cuomo administration said any delay could affect federal funding for the $5 billion project.
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With the bridge as a backdrop, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a letter on Monday to begin the state’s application for a $2 billion federal loan.
“To make sure that we can build the bridge and we can keep the tolls affordable and that’s the next obstacle for us to overcome and we will,” he told reporters in Piermont.
Cuomo was joined by the key county executives – Scott Vanderhoff of Rockland, Rob Astorino of Westchester, and MaryEllen Odell of Putnam – whose support was needed to approve the project.
Astorino still have concerns about mass transit and the cost.
“Suppose it’s not $2 billion that they get as a loan. So, I think all of those are question marks that the state has to deal with, but the vote to allow the state to move forward was important because now they can go get that piece of the puzzle,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond.
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