New City and other Rockland County residents spoke about and asked the governor’s representatives about tolls, construction and mass transit plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge at Tuesday’s Community Meeting at the New City Library. A few dozen people including several elected officials heard an explanation of the process that led to the current plan for construction of a $5 billion, two-span, eight-lane bridge.
Brian Conybeare, Special Advisor on the Tappan Zee Bridge, said 10 teams were working on the submitted in July and were about halfway through the process.
“All the builders are being asked to make presentations of their general designs,” said Conybeare, noting that could happen in September.
Spokesman Mark Roche noted that the proposals would be fully evaluated before the bids from each of the three build teams were opened.
Legislator Ed Day spoke about the , saying they were too high and would negatively affect the economy in Rockland. He said the Palisades Center in West Nyack brings in about 25 percent of the county’s sales tax revenue and an expensive toll could deter people traveling from Westchester to the mall. Since the bridge is part of the New York State Thruway, he suggested the replacement cost could be reflected in tolls across the entire road network.
“This cost has to be spread across the thruway,” he said. “It has to be understood the tolls are going to have an economic impact.”
Day also said that comparing the toll on the new Tappan Zee Bridge to the crossings to the south did not make sense because the tolls on the Port Authority’s crossings fund other facilities and operations of that organization.
Carol Vericker of Ramapo asked about high occupancy vehicle lanes and emergency lanes.
“You’ve got room for both shoulders,” said Karen Rae of the governor’s office. “You’ve got room for emergency vehicles. You’ve got room to add HOV in the future as well as an express bus service, which we’ve committed to immediately implement on Day 1. We’ll be doing the study to determine which of those lanes it will be traveling in. But the capacity to do that is built into the existing design.”
Rae of the governor’s office explained that 10 years of study and discussion resulted in a review of three options, their costs and While the $5 billion choice was selected, its recently announced potential tolls of $8.40 for commuters and $14 for those paying cash have been determined to be too costly. Rae said the governor formed a task force to investigate options for more federal funds as well as potential discounts for Rockland and Westchester residents.
“Its very, very critical that deal with this and create better options,” she told the audience.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski said it is important to keep up the momentum.
“Getting the project going really is important,” he said.
Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said the new bridge is really the only workable option.
Spokesman Mark Roche summarized the on Community Impact, River Impact and Bus Transit. He noted 95 percent of the materials would be transported by barge to the construction site to reduce noise and minimize the effects on local roadways. Conybeare added that staging areas where construction workers would park would be set up in industrial zones. The workers would then be bused to the construction site.
Additionally, the Community Impact will be monitored with controls to prevent dust and emissions. To control the River Environmental Impact, Roche said, dredging would be restricted to three months per year. Future Bus Transit options will be incorporated in the design by providing space for bus rapid transit or rapid rail service and requiring that the bridge be strong enough. He said those requirements added about $300 million to the anticipated cost.
Roche said the Project Labor Agreement is good for the community and labor because it will ensure that local unions and trades get the jobs. The agreement will diminish the new bridge’s cost by $450 million.
“It’s really very focused on using the infrastructure of hiring that exists in Rockland and Westchester counties,” he said.
There will be a Community Meeting in Nyack tonight at 6 p.m.at the Nyack Chamber of Commerce.