The New York State Thruway Authority plans to finance the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge mostly through toll-backed bonding, executive director Thomas Madison said Thursday.
At a breakfast discussion hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission, Madison discussed plans for financing the project, estimated to cost $6 billion.
“Unlike the state, the Thruway Authority does not have a cap amount to which it can go to market for bonding. We are confident we will be able to finance the project and we are confident we will have a loan from the federal government,” Madison said.
The authority recently applied for a loan from the Federal Highway Administration under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or TIFIA, but was not selected.
Madison, a former state and federal highway administrator and most recently the vice president at infrastructure firm STV Inc., said the Thruway will again apply for a loan of $2 billion to cover a third of the project’s cost.
“We feel that the project itself is exactly the kind of project that TIFIA was designed for — large, complex, expensive, and because it was designated by the president and the U.S. DOT as a high priority, we have as good a chance as any of the applicants to receive significant TIFIA funding,” Madison said.
He explained that of the 26 projects that applied for the loan, only five were selected and they were all much smaller projects in a more advanced stage of readiness. The Tappan Zee Bridge is now among six projects that will be strongly considered and put through an accelerated review process after reauthorization of the federal transportation bill, Madison said.
In addition to bonds and a loan, the authority is exploring other financing options, including pension fund investment and private funding.
A final request for proposals went out in March to the four short-listed firms eligible to design and build the new bridge. The proposals are due on July 27 and Thruway officials expect to make the selection in late summer and begin the project this year.
Once construction begins, Madison said the project is estimated to take five years.
For now, the Thruway does not have any toll-backed bond issues scheduled. The authority does have bond anticipation notes coming due mid-July, which Madison said they will need to address this summer.
The existing Tappan Zee toll bridge, which opened to traffic in 1955, crosses the Hudson River and connects South Nyack and Tarrytown, N.Y.
The old bridge is prone to congestion and accidents and was not designed to handle current traffic levels. It also requires an extensive and costly maintenance program.
Madison said the Thruway Authority wants to build a new bridge that will last 100 years without requiring major repairs during that time. The new bridge will have additional space for future transit options and a bike and pedestrian walkway.
An estimated 45,000 jobs would be created from the project, Madison said.