Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Construction of New Tappan Zee Bridge to Begin Early This Year

After more than a decade of public meetings and proposals, construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge is expected to begin in early this year, according to a timeline provided by the New York State Thruway Authority. The New York State Department of Transportation has awarded a $3.1 billion contract to replace the aging bridge connecting Westchester and Rockland counties over the Hudson River, to a consortium lead by U.S. mega-contractor Fluor. There will be no mass-transit component when the bridge opens, although officials say the bridge will be transit ready. The new 3.1-mile span between Tarrytown and Nyack will take about five years to complete.

The Thruway Authority's contract with Tappan Zee Constructors - a consortium consisting of Flour, American Bridge Company, Granite Construction Northeast and Traylor Bros - has been formally reviewed by the state comptroller and the attorney general.

"This is a major milestone for a bridge project that was a metaphor for the dysfunction of government and is now a national model for progress," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The contract is significantly below the Thruway Authority's $5.2 billion estimated cost.

 Fluor said it had lowered costs by reducing the weight of the structure and minimizing the number and size of foundations required. The main span of the bridge will be 350-feet and has been designed to minimize the number of piers needed for construction, providing a sleeker looking bridge. The main span will be a composite deck cable-stayed structural system with outwardly inclined main span towers that Fluor claims will create an iconic look and accommodate future transit loads.

A Blue Ribbon selection committee, which featured artists and designers such as sculptor Jeff Koons and architect Richard Meier, spent several weeks considering three bids on the new bridge. The committee recommended a $3.1 billion bridge was the cheapest to build and would take the least amount of time to construct.

New York State officials have not released a formal financial plan, but say they are applying for a federal transportation loan, selling bonds and examining toll prices. The New York State Thruway Authority estimated in early August a $14 toll, with commuters paying $8.50 to cross the bridge.  Governor Cuomo has said the proposed toll is too high.

The new bridge will include two spans with eight lanes of traffic, breakdown shoulders and emergency lanes. The north span will include a pedestrian and bicycle lane. Officials say the new bridge will also have suicide prevention measures, such as anti-climb fencing and security cameras.

Express bus service will be in use during rush hour when the bridge opens. There will be no other mass-transit component in place, although officials say the bridge will be “transit ready.”

State officials have said most construction activity will take place on barges, although a staging area is planned for the state police barracks site in Tarrytown just north of the bridge. The contractors plan to use the “Left Coast Lifter,” one of the world's largest floating cranes, to help build the bridge.

Crews will dredge about 951,000 cubic yards of soil from the river. Pile driving will take place, but state officials say it will not occur close to the shore. Officials say they will work to minimize construction impacts, including setting up a 24-hour monitoring system for noise and air quality. Officials plan to limit dust and emissions from the construction area. Barges will deliver most construction equipment, and any delivery trucks will exit from the Thruway to the staging area, staying off local streets.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2018.