The first span of a new Tappan Zee Bridge connecting New York’s Rockland and Westchester counties is opening for traffic late Friday, four years after the $4 billion design-build project took flight.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dedicated the three-mile bridge in a Thursday ceremony, touting completion of the structure on time and under budget. The New York State Thruway Authority selected Tappan Zee Constructors for both the design and construction of the replacement bridge in 2012 with the firm's winning bid coming in $1 billion below the $5 billion costs the state had projected.
Four lanes of Rockland County-bound traffic on the new bridge, which was named for former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, are slated to open late Friday night. The second span of the bridge is scheduled to open next year.
The Tappan Zee Bridge replacement was cited in a 2015 study from the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University as an example for savings and efficiency that can result from design-build strategies on major infrastructure projects. The design-build model has also been used for the replacement of the Goethals Bridge connecting Staten Island and New Jersey and a new Kosciuszko Bridge in New York City.
“The opening is a historic moment, not only for what it is, but for the process used to build it,” said Chris Hamel, head of municipal finance at RBC Capital Markets, which sponsored the 2015 Rudin Center report along with the Association for A Better New York. “The state’s use of Design-Build for construction allowed it to do more with existing resources, which is further proof that this important tool must be available to all New York government leaders.”
Cuomo allocated $1.3 billion of funding in his 2016 fiscal year budget to support replacing the 1955-built Tappan Zee Bridge and the entire Thruway system in order to keep toll rates flat until at least 2020. The plan prompted concerns from some fiscal watchdogs about long-term financing for the project including a May 2016 letter from New York State Comptroller’s office stating that the NYSTA needs a more clear capital strategy.
The NYSTA issued $850 million in bonds last year to fund a portion of the new bridge. The project also got a boost from a $1.6 billion federal loan under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.