The Examiner

New Tappan Zee Bridge to Be Open to Traffic By 2016

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By Janine Bowen

Gov. Cuomo's special adviser on the New Tappan Zee Bridge, gives an audience in Greenburgh a progress report on the project.
Brian Conybeare, Gov. Cuomo’s special adviser on the New Tappan Zee Bridge, gives an audience in Greenburgh a progress report on the project.

A special adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the New Tappan Zee Bridge project told a crowd in Greenburgh on Wednesday that traffic could start to use the first of two new spans as early as 2016.

Brian Conybeare, speaking in a forum at the Greenburgh Public Library hosted by the Westchester branch of the American Association of University Women, led a discussion and progress report on the new bridge’s construction.

“I just love the look of the new bridge and the process by which it’s starting to unfold,” Conybeare said.

The new bridge will feature two spans with a total of eight lanes of traffic as well as express bus lanes. In order to improve traffic flow, the new bridge will also feature several turn-around lanes, which will provide motorists with a way to get off the bridge in the event of accidents and traffic back-ups.

The project, which will begin to progress rapidly once warmer weather arrives, is expected to create thousands of jobs in the state. The work is being led by Tappan Zee Construction, a consortium of companies, including several local ones. The lead design firm on the project, HDR, is located in Pearl River, while Granite Construction has its northeast headquarters in Tarrytown.

“Our goal is to get as many local companies involved in this as we can and it is working…So far the lion’s share of the contracts have come from New York State companies,” Conybeare said.

A bike and pedestrian path will be featured on the northern span, which is expected to be completed in 2016. Once the northern span is finished, all traffic will be gradually moved onto it as the southern span, where the old bridge is currently located, is built. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2018.

Electronic toll collecting may be the only method used for the New Tappan Zee. The process, which is being tested during the construction phase, will allow residents with E-ZPass to pay tolls without slowing down. For drivers without E-ZPass, the system would photograph vehicles’ license plates and a bill would be sent via mail.

“We anticipate going to all electronic toll collecting, permanently, on the bridge,” said Conybeare, who pointed out that issues such as toll collection for those without E-ZPass must still be resolved.

He also mentioned the potential for Westchester and Rockland residents to receive a toll discount. While the current bridge toll is $5, that is expected to rise sharply to help pay for construction costs.

Public involvement will also be sought. Officials, who are aware of the imposition that construction will place on residents who live near the bridge in both counties, have set up cameras to allow viewing of the construction on the project’s website, www.newnybridge. Air pollution and noise level alerts will also be posted on the site.

“All major projects do this kind of monitoring, but none of them have ever put it on their website publicly for people to see, and Gov. Cuomo wanted this to be the most open infrastructure project in the history of New York,” Conybeare said.

He said crews are working to reduce noise during construction by using vibratory pile drivers and bubble curtains to trap the sound in the water. This limits disturbance for residents and helps protect endangered Atlantic and Shortnose sturgeon that are native to the Hudson River.

Although preliminary construction has begun, the bridge’s final design is not yet complete. The state’s design-build law allows construction to begin on approved parts of a project while other designs are still worked on. According to Conybeare, designs for the final bridge are about 75 percent complete, with work still needing to be done on items such as improvements to the pedestrian and bike path.

The New Tappan Zee design also accommodates the eventual inclusion of a Metro-North rail line.

Aside from the construction, Conybeare also addressed another hot topic surrounding the bridge—the potential for a new name. Recently, there has been talk of naming the new bridge after Pete Seeger or calling it the Purple Heart Hall of Fame Memorial Bridge.

A quick survey of the dozens of local residents at the meeting revealed that a majority hope to see the name remain. Conybeare explained that Tappan Zee has regional significance; Tappan having been the name of a Native American Tribe in Rockland while Zee is the Dutch word for sea. He said he doesn’t expect the name to change.

“Nobody at our level is talking about a new name for the bridge,” Conybeare said. “As far as I know, the new name is the New Tappan Zee Bridge. We’re focused on building a bridge, not on the calls to rename the bridge.”






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