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Tappan Zee design presented to Thruway Authority

This computer-rendered image, above, depicts the proposal recommended to the Thruway Authority of a possible replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge. If approved by the Thruway Authority next week, this bridge or either of the two other bids on the project, could begin construction as early as next month. Photo by courtesy of
December 10, 2012
The committee charged with making a recommendation for a design of the new Tappan Zee Bridge has submitted its choice to the New York State Thruway Authority.

Committee members comprised of finance experts, award-winning architects and artists chose from three proposed contracts and determined what choice was the best value for New York taxpayers. A presentation of all three designs was unveiled at the Capitol last Wednesday.

The unnamed bridge design chosen by the committee has an estimated cost of $3.14 billion, and out of all three contracts reviewed it is not only the cheapest, it is also the least disruptive to the surrounding environment of the Hudson River based on the amount of dredging necessary to accommodate construction equipment; the amount of river that will need to be dredged is nearly half of the other two bridges. The duration of the construction is expected to last slightly more than five years and two months. The bridge design is "mass transit ready."

"This project was pushed, managed, cajoled every step of the way," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "Almost at every interval what we were trying to do was 'impossible' To make this much progress on building a bridge in a year you know it can take a year to buy a new desk in this place to get a bridge to this point in a year, really is just a fantastic, fantastic accomplishment."

Exactly which of the project's bidders designed the recommended submission was not revealed and will remain anonymous until the Thruway Authority makes its final decision.

Cuomo said this sets a new model for the timetable to get things accomplished in Albany.

The Tappan Zee Bridge connects Westchester and Rockland Counties, and has been called one of the most dangerous bridges in the state by officials.

The images of all three designs show each bridge from both ends, an aerial view and a view of the bridge at night. The first design, as depicted in the visualization, is white with a blue stripe and in the middle it has four large supports which individually resemble the sharp end of a grilling fork. The "towers" are slightly more rounded than the other two, and like all three designs, it has a wealth of suspension cables protruding from the towers.

Cuomo said the next big question is: "What federal assistance do we get?" He said the state is awaiting a response from the federal government in regards to a loan application for the bridge replacement project submitted earlier this year. Selling bonds to finance the construction is also something the governor said he would consider to help raise additional funds for the project.

Cuomo said raising the tolls on the Thruway was still up to the Thruway Authority, but he did note that his opinion has not changed and raising tolls on the Thruway should be a "last resort."

The committee chose the bridge based on the "best-value approach" enacted Cuomo as a requirement for all capital projects in the state. These include qualities like cost, lifespan, public outreach and technical engineering. The bridge was also expected to be aesthetically pleasing and represent the culture of New Yorkers.

The governor's "design-build" legislation also ensures that the contractors would be responsible for any cost overruns in the project.

"The entire plan is weighed on several different areas, but price is 50 percent of the best value equation," Brian Conybeare, a special advisor to Cuomo for the Tappan Zee project said.

Conybeare elaborated on the total cost of the project and mentioned there will be additional costs that could total between $600 million and $800 million for management, oversight, contingency and aesthetic improvements over the duration of the project.

The bridge must still be reviewed and finalized by the New York State Thruway Authority. The vote is expected to take place at a meeting on Dec. 17. Officials at the presentation said they expect construction to begin soon after the first of the year.

When asked about the weight of the committee's recommendation, Executive Director of the Thruway Authority Thomas Madison said: "It plays a heavy role in the decision making process. However, the board is open to choose from any of these options."

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