By Kathy Kahn
Special to the Rockland Times
In 2011, a three-year window was created by New York Works to allow for design/build groups to bid on public projects. “Because of that change, a new Tappan Zee bridge has become a reality,” declared Darrell Walters of Fluor, Inc. The firm chosen for the job, Tappan Zee Constructors, is comprised of four major engineering firms: Fluor Enterprises, Inc, American Bridge Company, Granite Construction Northeast, Inc. and Taylor Bros., Inc. HDR of Omaha, Nebraska is lead designer for the project.
Waters, president of Tappan Zee Constructors, on Thursday told Rockland Business Association members gathered at Nyack Seaport that Fluor initially put up $10 million of its own money to start the design/build ball rolling. “We took a leap of faith that we’d be here to build this, and it’s happened.” Though he declined to say how much had been spent for the coveted project, he admitted to 15,000 hours of work going in to the bid preparation.
TZ Constructors’ $3.14 billion bid will create twin spans, consisting of a total of eight traffic lanes, as well as emergency lanes, a wider shoulder to accommodate buses, as well as a walking path. The first of the two will be constructed next to the original bridge, said Waters. “Once that is completed, all traffic will move on to the new bridge while the old bridge is demolished; then, we start to build the second span.” The timeline for the entire replacement project is five years, with dredging beginning in August, the first span completed and opened by 2015, and the entire Tappan Zee bridge scheduled for completion in 2018.
Although no mass transit component will be in place—much to the chagrin of commuters–the new bridge has been designed to accommodate it in future. The cost of adding mass transit immediately was deemed too prohibitive, particularly since a cadre of engineers deemed time was of the essence to replace the 50-year old bridge. The new Tappan Zee’s life span will be 100 years.
There will be a be a cavalcade of dozens of barges with equipment working on the Hudson, including the world’s tallest floating crane, a “west coast lifter,” weighing in at 760 tons. There’s little doubt the construction itself will bring many tourists to the shores of the Hudson to observe the building of what will be one of the world’s widest bridges. That means an influx of tourism business wherever there is a view of the bridge to many communities hard hit by Superstorm Sandy.
Waters told RBA business owners the design/build group is actively seeking local companies to bid for work on the project. “We intend to buy local and stay local,” said TZ Constructors’ president. “There are many job opportunities, from administrative and information technology to construction trades. At peak, we expect to have more than 400 craftsmen on site, as well of hundreds working off-site fabricating the materials.”
Although the final design has been chosen, the public has appealed for one change in the final design, Rather than flat towers, many would like to see them sloped. “That will add another $2 million to the cost,” said Waters. Whether that change will be incorporated into the design has yet to be determined. Work is already underway to mitigate the effect the construction will have on local communities.
Tolls were a big issue for many of the more than 150 guests at the RBA luncheon. Waters said a task force has been formed, which includes Rockland Legislative chairwoman Harriet Cornell, charged with the duty of finding the way to make the bridge crossing affordable. Gary Lefkowitz of Financial Benefits crosses the Tappan Zee once a week: “It definitely needs to be replaced. We’re all excited that a safe, new bridge will be there soon….but we are also waiting to find out how much it is going to cost to cross it.” The possibility of purchasing naming rights to the new bridge was also mentioned during the luncheon.
Tappan Zee Constructors (tappanzeecontractors.com) is co-located with the New York State Thruway Authority in White Plains and actively seeking bidders on its website.