Governor Andrew Cuomo formalized the state's request for federal support to build a new bridge replacing the Tappan Zee on Monday by signing a letter of intent to Washington. Addressed to US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, it acts as an application for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) funding. The bridge is projected to cost over $5 billion.
The governor wasted no time making the formal request, doing so just hours after the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council made the project eligible for federal dollars by unanimously voting to include it in the 2010-2035 Regional Transportation Plan.
Cuomo was joined by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, various assembly members and the Rockland, Putnam and Westchester county executives in Piermont to make the announcement and sign the document.
The governor said there was a history of 13 years of inaction concerning the future of the bridge.
“It was a failure of leadership, a failure of government and in many ways a metaphor for the failure that New York State overall was doing time and time again,” Cuomo said. “That was yesterday and this is today. And there is a different spirit and different energy in New York today.”
The design-build legislation passed by the state will contract a private contractor to be responsible for both planning and constructing the edifice, which means one price, said the governor. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project was released last month, which included over 3,000 public comments.
"The next step now is to go to Washington and apply for a federal loan to make sure that we could build the bridge and keep the tolls affordable. And that's the next obstacle to overcome," said Cuomo.
He was successful last fall in gaining Barack Obama's aid to expedite the approval process for the study and construction of a new bridge. Local county execs have also voted and voiced their approval.
"The governor should be given great credit…for talking through the issues of [mass] transit, the need for transit in the future, making it transit-compatible. So that ultimately this bridge will serve not just Rockland, Westchester and the region, but all of New York State in a way that is transit-friendly," said Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef.
"Today represents a unified commitment from all of us no matter what party," said Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino. "It's time now for our federal representatives to get to work. The state is ready to apply for the loan…and now it's incumbent upon our federal delegation to work as hard as they can to make sure that we get the money the state needs to help build this bridge."