New York Governor gets metro area OK for new Tappan Zee Bridge - now after TIFIA loan

August 22, 2012

2012-08-21: A new Tappan Zee Bridge plan championed by the governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo got the unanimous approval of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Commission (NYMTC) in a special meeting Monday allowing the New York State Thruway Authority owner of the bridge to apply for a federally supported TIFIA loan. Immediately after the vote the state Governor emailed US sec-trans Ray LaHood urging his support for the project.

Cuomo said in a statement: "After over a decade of delay caused by political dysfunction, this letter demonstrates that we are making real progress towards constructing a stronger, transit-ready bridge that will reduce congestion for year to come."

Twin spans 96ft and 87ft decks to replace 93ft

The new Tappan Zee Bridge (TZB) is estimated to cost about $5.4 billion. The old single roadway 7-lane undivided bridge is 57 years old (opened 1955) and is estimated to cost $3 billion to $4b in rehabilitation costs over the next 20 years. It has some structural weaknesses in an area of moderate seismic risk.

The 1955 bridge has oversteep approaches for good flow of truck traffic and needs at least one extra lane (for 2x4 lanes) to handle the existing traffic.

Average daily traffic has been essentially static at around 134,000 to 135,000 since 2000. East and westbound peaks are now rather equal making reversibility of the central lane and the movable central barrier pointless.

The existing deck is about 93ft and lanes vary between 11.2ft and 12ft width and there are no shoulders. Even small incidents can cause horrendous tie-ups because of the difficulty emergency vehicles have getting access and the difficulty of moving wrecks out of the travel lanes.

Small incidents turn into horror tie-ups

The TZB located near Tarrytown (E) South Nyack (W) NY about 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan carries the north-south New York State Thruway I-87 as well as east-west I-287 Westchester Co/Connecticut-Rockland traffic over the estuarial Hudson River at a location where it is mostly quite shallow but about 3 miles, 5km wide.

The selected format for the new bridge is separate east-bound and westbound spans providing 183ft total of deck almost doubling the existing 93ft of deck.

As well as four travel lanes on each span the 96ft wide north or westbound span has a 12ft pedestrian/bike lane, 6ft of barrier and 30ft of 'shoulder' as well as the 48ft of 4x12ft travel lanes.

The eastbound or south span is 87ft wide with 35ft of 'shoulder,' 4ft of barrier and the 4x12ft or 48ft of travel lanes.

see below

Transit-ready but no 'transit' - no transit network anyway

Part of the 'shoulder' on each span is shown as 'emergency access' but clearly this could be used in peakhours for a bus rapid transit or a HOT lane with connections on either side.  The bridge as proposed is therefore "transit ready."

It is the connections that are the catch in trying to satisfy the transit lobby demand that it cater to transit.

Previous plans went nowhere precisely because they attempted to make transit connections on the Westchester and Rockland county sides of the bridge and costs went about $10 billion - and of course there is no net revenue in transit, only the guaranteed need for subsidies for year after year.

Media hysteria over $7 each way toll

Even the $5.4b 183ft of deck spans will require a big increase in tolls.

It isn't exactly clear how the numbers were derived - and that is part of the Thruway's PR problem - but recently the Thruway posted an item Bridge Toll Options showing a new cash toll for the chosen alternative (Option 3 nearby) as $14 cash and $8.40 for commuters with E-ZPass.

This is for a car toll the toll being collected as now eastbound only so it is in effect a $7.00 crossing cash toll and a $4.20 E-ZPass commuter toll. Those tolls are pretty similar to existing tolls on New York City crossings, but the $14 proposed cash toll compares with $5.00 now, so the media and politicians went hysterical about a "nearly three fold" proposed increase.

Most users being commuters would face a 68% to doubling increase to the $8.40 but citing the $14 made the better horror story.

The project team was attempting to show the better deal the new bridge transit-ready option toll was as compared to the vastly-more-expensive new bridge + countwide transit system option. And also that keeping the old bridge with repairs was not much of a bargain compared to the chosen option - that commuters would still be paying $3.60 each way, only saving 60c on the  $4.20 each way on the new twinspan bridge. But that got lost in the sensationalist uproar over the "$14 toll" figure.

see project website:

older site:

TOLLROADSnews 2012-08-21

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