PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – The Tappan Zee Bridge is outdated and overcrowded and needs to be replaced. That is the reality facing members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Tappan Zee Bridge project team, some of whom gave a presentation Wednesday to members of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce on the plans to replace the span.
"More than 138,000 vehicles use it every day, and that's far more than it was designed to handle back in the 1950s," said Brian Conybeare, special adviser to the governor and the event's host. "Traffic jams happen all too often, and the accident rate is actually double the average accident rate for the rest of the Thruway system."
Conybeare was joined by Karen Rae, the deputy secretary of transportation, and Mark Roche, a principal at Arup Engineering Consultants and a veteran transportation project manager.
The new bridge that will be constructed will last 150 to 200 years and won't need major repairs for at least a century, project planners say.
The new bridge will have eight lanes and lanes for pedestrians and cyclists. It will also have additional E-ZPass capabilities.
While it would cost $3 billion to $4 billion to repair the current bridge, that would not address the congestion, hazardous conditions and lack of public transit across the bridge, Rae said. State officials think it makes more sense to build a new bridge for about $5 billion that can support mass transit buses and possibly even rail traffic in the future.
Adding bus rapid transit, or BRT, would greatly increase the cost because of lanes that would need to be created to accommodate it, Roche said.
"The issue that we have through that 30-mile corridor is that we don't have dedicated lanes to put it (the BRT) on," Roche said. "It's the cost of putting those dedicated lanes in that makes the bus system so expensive, and that's different from many other parts of the world where we've put them in."
The state is using a design-build model of construction in which the bridge designers and builders work together to avoid unnecessary construction change orders. If changes do come up they will be covered by the building company, as will be the removal of the current bridge, which sits next to where the new bridge will be built.
Tolls would be $8.40 for area commuters and $14 for motorists paying cash, according to Rae. Additional funding sources and commuter discounts will be considered by the governor, she said.
Gateway Chamber Executive Director Deb Milone asked if the project would have any affect on traffic on the Bear Mountain Bridge, since many people will likely use that bridge to avoid lengthy delays and the higher tolls. Rae replied that studies indicate traffic diversion to the Bear Mountain Bridge will be minimal.
Toll booths will likely remain on only one side of the new Tappan Zee Bridge in order to prevent additional slowdowns, she said.
Slides from Wednesday's presentation can be viewed in the gallery above. Additional information on the bridge project can be found at www.newNYbridge.com.