Tom Warne Report, 14 September 2012
The governor of New York is requesting up to $2.9 billion in federal loans to build the new Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most recent request is about $900 million more than a similar request last year that wasn’t approved, according to the loan application. Under new rules in a transportation bill approved by Congress in June, New York can increase the amount it requests, as now applicants can ask for up to 49 percent of a project’s cost, compared to one-third before. To build the 3.1-mile bridge, the state also plans to issue $2.3 billion to $2.7 billion in bonds to be repaid by bridge tolls.
“Given the importance of the bridge to the economy of the region, we are asking for the maximum we can possibly receive with the hope that we will get the most support possible,” Tom Madison, executive director of the New York Thruway Authority, said in a statement. The authority is constructing the bridge, which is part of the Thruway system. The 56-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge is located about 20 miles north of Manhattan and carries 138,000 vehicles daily between Rockland and Westchester counties, 40 percent more than the bridge was designed for. The project is among 14 projects President Barack Obama selected for accelerated federal approval processing.
The $2.9 billion total of the loan request is at the high end, based on a $5.9 billion cost estimate. The final cost won’t be determined until October after a winning contractor bid is chosen, as stated in the loan application dated Sept. 5. The loan request will potentially be lowered to $2.4 billion, the state said.
Regardless of the loan size, “we remain confident that the financial plan for the project will ensure that the new bridge is completed in a timely manner and without creating an excessive burden on toll payers,” Madison said.