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NY Advisory Board Favors Cheapest Tappan Zee Plan

NY Advisory Board Favors Cheapest Tappan Zee Plan
The final decision will be made by the state Thruway Authority on Dec. 17.

A state advisory board favors a $3.14 billion plan, the least costly of three options, to replace the Tappan Zee bridge in suburban New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The proposal, identified as No. 1, could mean smaller toll increases to help pay for the span. Other designs were estimated at $3.99 billion and $4.06 billion. Each had different visions of the winding bridge over the Hudson River north of Manhattan.

The final decision will be made by the state Thruway Authority on Dec. 17.

Cuomo's chief of staff, Larry Schwartz, who lives in Westchester, said that as a toll-paying taxpayer, "I like proposal No. 1."

New York residents can weigh in on the designs at a new website. Their comments will be provided to the authority, which operates the bridge, linking Westchester and Rockland counties.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said Wednesday he hadn't heard a decision on a critical federal loan that could cover as much as $2.9 billion of the cost. President Barack Obama's administration passed over the project earlier this year but invited New York to submit another proposal. In October, Obama declared the bridge eligible for fast-tracked federal approvals.

Tolls, charged for vehicles crossing the bridge into Westchester, are expected to rise from the current $5 to $14, but a lower cost of construction could affect the increase.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2013 after a year of planning. Cuomo said the favored proposal was the most attractive even before the costs were compared. Original estimates of the massive project to replace the decades-old Tappan Zee Bridge were about $5.2 billion.

Contractors were told the price would account for just half of the scoring for a decision, which would be determined by "the best value." The other half would include length of life and other priorities.

The first option is expected to take just over five years to complete. The most expensive option would take five years and 11 months.

Another $500 million to $800 million, however, could be added to any decision chosen for additional costs.