BY MICHAEL CAHILL
“We’re here today because we need to replace that crossing to your right,” said Al Samuels, President of the Rockland Business Association, motioning to the Tappan Zee Bridge behind him through the windows. “It has outlived its usefulness.”
A shadow has been cast this week over the future of the new bridge project. The Federal Department of Transportation announced New York was not selected to receive a $2 billion federal loan for the project. The loan would have financed a considerable amount of the $5.2 billion project.
Samuels, who moderated the event, said he had expected the federal government to deny the loan because of the lack of a finished DEIS and design plan. However he was confident that the project will continue and find funding from other sources.
In contrast the state GOP has tried to paint the decision to deny the loan as an example of Democrats “fast tracking a bridge to nowhere.” It was only months ago that President Obama put the bridge on a so-called “fast-track” plan.
Jan Degenshein, president of Degenshein Architects joined Samuels in advocating for building the new bridge now. Degenshein said it is important to build the new bridge now to prevent a tragedy that might result from the aging infrastructure of the current bridge. Commuter rail and public transportation could be built into it later, to keep costs down now. “We need to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
Local business has suffered over the years at the hands of the aging Tappen Zee Bridge according to Peter Kelly who owns the Xaviars Restaurant Group. “Right now the bridge is a mental block for people looking to do business in this area,” said Kelly who runs restaurants on both sides of the river.
Over the years Kelly said he has seen a drop in customers coming to his restaurant in Piermont from Westchester. “The reality is,” he said, “People in Rockland County stay in Rockland and people in Westchester County stay in Westchester.”
Samuels also blasted special interest groups who he says are seeking to hamper the bridge construction by insisting on costly additions to the final design plan. He called them obstructionists, and said he has no sympathy for them.
“That new crossing will happen,” said Samuels.
For more information about Build the Bridge Now NY visit their website http://replacethetzbridgenow.org/