Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tappan Zee Bridge reconstruction fast-tracked

The Tappan Zee Bridge has been tapped for a speedy review and approval process, which will allow reconstruction of the bridge to begin much sooner than previously thought.

President Barack Obama has green-lighted New York State's request, and with the expedited federal review of the Environmental Impact Statement and the processing of certain permits, the Tappan Zee project could begin as early as next year.

“This is a shot in the arm for the project and a major step forward to restoring this key piece of our infrastructure and putting tens of thousands of New Yorkers back to work,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
According to the Presidential memorandum, “improved coordination among multiple federal agencies will reduce the time needed to proceed from a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to a Record of Decision, potentially reducing the project timeline by multiple years.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, who applauded the president for his actions, says that serious damage to the bridge would be horrendous for the tri-state area.

Jump below for the full story, including information as to when public meetings will be held to discuss the $5.2 billion project's details.

“The Tappan Zee Bridge is vital to the entire Hudson Valley region and New England, and its safety is paramount,” Engel said. “The New York State Thruway carries over 150,000 vehicles per day over it. Should the TZ Bridge collapse or have a structural failure, it would mean a significant loss of life, devastate the region’s economy, and cause a transportation nightmare.”

The governor’s office says the bridge has an accident rate double the rest of the state’s Thruway system, and is extremely vulnerable to storms, ship collisions and earthquakes.

“I am glad the White House is listening to what I have been saying for a long time – the Tappan Zee Bridge project is one of the most important projects in the nation,” Engel said. “I have also repeatedly called for increased federal funds for transportation projects in order to stimulate the economy, create jobs and given much-needed attention to these types of infrastructure projects. Transportation projects can serve as a necessary jump-start to our economy, and the Tappan Zee Bridge project is one of the best examples.”

Engel took this as an opportunity to highlight the necessity of Congress passing a bill that will put Americans to work immediately.

"Recently, I personally inspected the bridge, and can attest to its need for repair and eventual replacement. The United States ranks 23rd worldwide in the quality of its overall infrastructure. Not only is there a vital safety issue, but there are also hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake. China currently spends nine percent of its Gross Domestic Product per year on infrastructure investments. India spends five percent of its GDP on infrastructure. The United States invests only 1.9 percent. This is not the way to be competitive in the 21st century.

"I call on my Republican colleagues to not be pennywise and pound foolish and to pass a robust transportation bill. The administration’s action today is a great first step, but we must join together in a bipartisan manner to improve our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work."

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign came out with a statement urging Cuomo to include a bus rapid transit component at the same time as the bridge replacement.

"[W]ithout the bus rapid transit component of the project, commuters will continue to be stuck in traffic. In state transportation studies, the bus rapid transit had the highest suburban to suburban ridership and thus would do the most to get people out of their cars. If transit isn’t added now, we worry it never will be," said Kate Slevin, the campaigns executive director.

"Study after study has shown that transit projects create and support more jobs than road projects. For example, researchers from the University of Misssouri-St. Louis found that each billion dollars invested in transit creates 36,108 jobs, while the same amount spent on road projects creates 30,319 jobs. In other words, if job creation is the goal, transit should be included."

According to Slevin, bus transit was supposed to be included with the George Washington Bridge, but considerable pressure to build the bridge forced the road portion to be finished quickly, causing the transit portion to be left behind.

"Obviously, the transit was never completed," she said.

Details about the $5.2 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge will be unveiled to the public in less than two weeks, according to a document filed in the Federal Register on Wednesday, the Journal News reported. 

The Federal Highway Administration, which has taken over from the state as the lead agency on the project, will host a public scoping briefing Oct. 25 at the Doubletree Hotel Tarrytown and Oct. 27 at the Palisades Center in West Nyack to discuss the new eight-lane bridge.Each meeting will run from 4 to 9 p.m. and will feature formal presentations, an open house and a chance for public comment on the required environmental review.

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