Clarkstown Town Board members and residents heard the most recent presentation on the plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge at Tuesday night’s town board meeting. Their line of questioning concerned the lifespan of the new bridge, higher tolls and the financing plan for the new span.
Brian Conybeare, the governor’s special advisor for the “New New York Bridge,” told the 20 or so people in attendance that the presentation they received had been updated within the past week. He reviewed the process for selecting the contractor; described features of the bridge discussed the creation of a Rockland Outreach Center in Nyack and schedule for the start of work on the bridge.
One resident asked about plans to shift all traffic off the current bridge to the northern span when it is completed in 2016. Conybeare told him the northern span would be wider than the existing bridge at 96 feet.
“It will be wider and smoother than the current Tappan Zee Bridge,” said Conybeare.
Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner wanted to know why the new construction was given a 100-year lifetime when many existing bridges are a lot older than that and still in relatively good condition.
Conybeare noted the bridge is actually expected to be in use for 100 years without major structural repairs. It will require regular maintenance but nothing along the lines of the major repair work the Tappan Zee Bridge has undergone in recent years. It could last 150 or more years.
“The engineers have told me it will last a minimum of 150 years,” he said.
When someone asked if the toll was actually going to be $14 as widely speculated, Conybeare replied the price of the toll will depend upon how much money the state gets from U.S. Department of Transportation for the bridge. The state has applied for up to $2 billion in a long term, low interest loan from the federal government’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA).
“The more money we get out of that TIFIA program the lower the tolls will be,” said Conybeare.
He said the state hopes to find out soon how much money it will receive but could not provide a date. However, he said no final determination has been made regarding any interim toll hike. Gov. Cuomo has called for a Toll Financing Task Force which will review the toll issue as one of its responsiblities. The Task Force will be created in the next few months.
When Orrin Getz of New City asked about a financial plan for the bridge and when that would be finalized, Conybeare said that also was dependent upon the amount of the TIFIA loan.
Nyack Village Trustee Marie Lorenzini inquired about how the plans would assure that traffic would move “cleaner and swifter” than it does now. Conybeare said there will be four lanes for vehicles to move onto and off the bridge and that a truck-climbing lane was being investigated.