Special Advisor to the Governor on the Tappan Zee Bridge Project Brian Conybeare and Civic Engineer Mark Roche provided an update on the status of a new Tappan Zee Bridge at a session in Sleepy Hollow Monday evening.
“Most people just want information,” Conybeare said. “They want to be able to ask questions and learn about the project. We’re here to give out the latest updated information on where the project stands and hopefully make them comfortable with what is obviously a pretty big project.”
According to Conybeare, the new bridge will be adjacent to the old one and will have four lanes going in each direction. In addition, the bridge will be transit-ready, meaning that if necessary, it can be fitted with mass transit, including bus rapid transit, which functions much like a monorail on wheels.
The plans for the bridge are currently being evaluated. Three bids have been submitted and the review process for each bid has been completed.
Right now, a state-appointed selection committee of engineers, architects, environmental consultants, design and art experts, historians, and other authorities is currently comparing plans and preparing to select a winning bidder.
Conybeare stated that the diversity of the committee reflects a desire to examine the bridge from every angle.
“We tried to create not only a bridge that is going to stand the test of time for 100, 150 years or more, but also something we can all be proud of,” Conybeare said.
In terms of funding, he said that the state is currently in talks with the federal government regarding the receipt of grant money and a Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act loan which is likely to provide most of the funding. Other likely sources of funding will include bonds sold on the open market by the state.
Tolls are expected to fund part of the project as well. However, Conybeare said Governor Cuomo had requested re-evaluations of current cost estimates to limit the bridge’s financial impact upon commuters by a task force of local, state, and federal officials.
During the question-and-answer session, the attendees primary concerns were noise, pollution, and the alternatives to a bridge. Several attendees suggested the possibility of a tunnel.
In response, Roche said the minimum length of the tunnel, the underwater terrain of the Hudson River, and difficulties in accommodating construction and design changes to highways on both sides of the river makes a tunnel an unwieldy and expensive option.
“Because of the geometry to get down beneath the riverbed, it’s the extra length that made the tunnel less economic,” Roche stated.
In an effort to evaluate the environmental impact of the bridge, the Federal Highway Commission issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement, a peer-reviewed document which outlines environmental problems associated with construction and possible solutions.
Solutions include new Tier 3 safety standards, “bubble curtains” around underwater pile-drivers to limit noise, and the use of vibration rather than pile-driving to push down into the river bed. Particular attention has been paid to sound, which can be lethal to fish and further threaten endangered species in the river such as the shortnose sturgeon.
Conybeare also said that although the environmental impact survey had been completed and mitigation measures were determined, Westchester residents would continue to be consulted and will be able to give feedback on noise and traffic, including real-time feedback which can be provided online through the bridge’s website.