Members from the team behind the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction team were in Rockland Tuesday night for a meeting with the public at Nyack High School.
The team gave an update on the rebuild process and answered questions from the crowd that were submitted during the meeting on cards. The team on hand at the meeting included:
- Brian Conybeare, a special advisor for Gov. Andrew Cuomo
- Karen Rae, deputy secretary of transportation for New York State
- Walter Reichert, project manager and vice president of Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC
- Carla Julian, community outreach/diversity manager for Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC
- Jeffrey Han, architectural engineer for Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC
- John Duschang, environmental manager for Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC
- Chris Woods, Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) compliance manager for Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC
The meeting started with Conybeare giving an update on the project. He said there aren’t any specific dates set yet, but added testing borings in the river this March and establishing staging areas. They want to get the test pilings installed around June of this year and start dredging in August. He said they hope to open the first span of the new bridge in 2016 and complete the second span in 2018.
Since the plan calls for essentially two bridges to be built, Conybeare said once the first span is built in 2016, they will shift traffic from the old bridge onto the first span.
“During the first three, three-and-a-half years of construction, the old bridge functions just as it is, and all the construction is happening about 200 feet north,” he said. “Once they connect the new northern span, traffic will be shifted off the old bridge onto the new norther span. It is 96-feet wide. That’s actually wider than the current Tappan Zee Bridge. It will have eight lanes, four in each direction with a safety divider in the middle, so you’ll actually have more capacity on the new norther span than the current bridge. It won’t have the breakdown lanes, emergency lanes, bus lanes or shared use path just yet, but once they get the new northern span with the traffic on it, they can start to then tear down the landings of the old bridge, build and complete the southern span and hook it up to the land. Then half the traffic gets shifted onto the southern span.”
Since the design has two bridges, the plan also calls for at least three emergency turnaround lanes.
“Right now, if there’s a fender bender, all bets are off,” Conybeare said. “All traffic virtually grinds to a halt, the ambulances, police and firefighters can’t get out there. Now they’ll be able to access it, they’ll be able to, in fact, turn traffic around and shift everybody off the bridge, if they have to. It will be a much more forgiving bridge if something bad does happen.”
Han added that there is space between the two bridges for a train if they decide to include one, so his way it won’t take away from the shared use path or bus lanes. He said the plans made sure the bridge will be “transit-ready.” During the meeting, they showed an animated video of what it could look like driving over the bridge (which is included over to the right side of this article).
Conybeare added the best proposal to build the new bridge came in at $3.142 billion, down from the estimated prices that ranged from $4.9-5.9 billion. The other two proposals came in at $3.99 billion and $4.01 billion, Conybeare said. He said the chosen proposal also had the shortest construction time (five years, two-and-a-half months compared to five years, 11 months and five years, 11.5 months) and the least amount of dredging (approximately 951,000 cubic yards compared to more than a million cubic yards and nearly double the 951,000 figure).
The crowd submitted questions about various concerns, including if any houses would be taken away due to construction. Duschang said no one will be losing a home, although some property from Bradford Mews Apartments might be needed for right of way expansion to adjust for the new noise wall.
“It’s not taking any homes,” Duschang said. “I think it’s an impact on some parking spaces there, about four or five or maybe six parking spaces.”
Another question asked how close the new bridge will be to Salisbury Point Cooperative apartments. Han said the new bridge’s northern travel way will move approximately 80 feet north and the structure itself with the shared path included will be approximately 106 feet north of existing structure, which leaves about 100 feet to the property line of Salisbury Point.
A few questions submitted asked about the walking and biking path on the bridge. Conybeare said the plan is to have parking spaces on both sides of the bridge so people can park near the bridge to walk or bike over it. On the Westchester side, he said the location they picked out is in Tarrytown in back of the state police and New York State Thruway Authority building. Han said the plan is to try and connect the path to Smith Ave. in South Nyack, and Conybeare said they still need to find parking spots nearby.
“I have been in discussions with some folks from South Nyack,” he said. “We’re working on it, believe me. We’re going to come up with a few truly agreeable solutions. We know that is an issue. What we don’t want to do is have a bunch of people parking all over streets in your neighborhood to go out there and walk on the bridge.”
A couple of questions dealt with trying to prevent attempted suicides on the new bridge. Han said the entire new bridge will have anti-climb fences. Conybeare said there are other security precautions on the bridge as well.
“There’s also going to be a new high-tech video surveillance system that will be monitored 24 hours a day by specially trained people who will be looking out not only people for someone who might be thinking about doing something untoward to themselves, but for possible terrorism, crime, anybody who’s stopping their car for some reason,” he said. “There will be a much more sophisticated video surveillance system and at each of the six — there are going to be six of those belvederes, those scenic overlooks — each one of them will have one of those emergency suicide hotline phones.”
Throughout the meeting, the panelists also talked a lot about outreach and engaging with community members. Rae said interaction is important because they’re building a legacy with the bridge.
Conybeare said he and Julian are the people to reach out to with questions or concerns. He also announced the opening on two community outreach centers that will be open seven days a week. In Rockland, the center is located at 142 Main Street, Nyack, and in Westchester it’s located at 303 S. Broadway, Tarrytown. Both are open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Conybeare added that anyone who can’t make it to the community centers for whatever reason can email firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll work with that person to answer his or her concerns or set up a meeting.
The panel also announced some upcoming events. They will host a DBE workshop Feb. 14 and 15, a jobs fair March 6 and 7 and business fairs April 23 and 24, spending one day in each county for all of those events. Conybeare said times and locations are still being figured out. He also added there will be job opportunities for locals, and anyone interested in a job should check www.TappanZeeConstructors.com.
Woods said they’ve set a goal to bring 10 percent of money spent on the project, meaning more than $300 million, into local communities to disadvantaged businesses, minority businesses, women-owned businesses, local businesses and small businesses. He said businesses and workers coming to the events will be a big help, since during construction they’re going to look locally for goods and services, whether that means purchasing steel or cups.
“We’d love for you to be there because each and every one of you are very important to us because you’re stakeholders,” Woods said. “You know the area. You know the resources. We need you to share that information with us.”