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Tappan Zee Bridge Update & How Much Will it Actually Cost?
Posted July 26th, 2012

BY SARA GILBERT

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo will be present to discuss the plan for the new Tappan Zee Bridge at two meetings on Thursday, July 26. The first, hosted by Rockland Business Association, will be at 8:30 a.m. at Dominican College, 470 Western Highway in Orangeburg. The second will be at 6 p.m. at Rockland Community College and will be geared towards the public’s concerns.

The following day, Friday, July 27, is the deadline for construction companies to place bids for building the new bridge. The lowest bid will be chosen and assigned the job.

According to the New Tappan Zee Bridge website (www.newnybridge.com), for the last 10 years, there have been 430 public meetings, 150 concepts and $88 million spent on figuring out how to replace this bridge, without any substantial progress made.

About a year ago, President Obama approved a federal process to expedite work on the new bridge and finally there has been movement.

What Will the Tappan Zee Bridge Actually Cost?

As the new bridge becomes more of a reality, there is talk of it costing roughly $5 billion. This seems like a large sum of money, even for a 14-lane double bridge.

Other bridges built in the United States, when researched, show up as having cost consistently less than $1 billion. Even if one were to double the cost because of the width of the suggested new Tappan Zee Bridge and add taxes, insurance and inflation all to the mix, one would end up with roughly $2 billion at most. Or so it seems.

This issue was brought to the attention of the Rockland County Times by a local resident. The Rockland County Times double-checked his claims with Susan Meyer, senior public information specialist for the County of Rockland’s Department of Planning. She admitted the resident had done a lot of research and had visited her office frequently with ideas of how he thought the bridge ought to be built, but she was not sure what credentials he had.

The bridges he mentioned all checked out and were in the range of several hundreds of millions of dollars. Even if one were to double that amount because the plan is for the bridge to be unusually wide, the total would come to less than $2 billion.

The Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which spans Tampa Bay, Fla., cost about $244 million to build. It was built in 1987, so add inflation to the pot. The total length of the bridge is 21,877 feet or 4.1 miles and is only 4 lanes wide.

The eight-lane Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which crosses the Cooper River in South Carolina and is the longest “cable span” bridge in the United States, cost about $700 million. It was built in 2005. The total length of the bridge is 13,200 feet.

The four-lane John James Audubon Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River in south central Louisiana, cost only about $409 million to build. It was built in 2010, opened in 2011. The total length is 12,883 feet.

Now, why would the Tappan Zee Bridge cost $5 billion?

Director of Public Affairs for the Thruway Dan Weiller wasn’t able to break down the large number in any concrete way. He did say, however, that the $5 billion includes not just the construction of the bridge, but also the construction to Route-287, additional traffic lanes, commuter bus lanes, bike and pedestrian lanes, electronic sensors, safety and security technology and more.

Activists looking for legal reform in New York State have pointed out that insurance laws mean the Tappan Zee project will cost upwards of $1 billion in liability insurance alone.

The newly set up bridge website (www.newnybridge.com), offered some more break down of the costs. In 2010, Rockland and Westchester Counties offered four scenarios with bus rapid transit (BRT) options. These ranged from $4.5-5.3 billion. These numbers are created by adding the cost for a Rockland highway, Rockland BRT, Westchester highway and Westchester BRT together. According to the files, these numbers do not include the estimated $75 million for vehicles and $80 million for annual operating costs.