Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that he is considering new ideas for paying to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge after the federal government rejected a $2 billion loan application.
Partnerships with private companies that could provide financing based on fares are among the many possibilities, though Cuomo didn't disclose any new approaches. Cuomo downplayed rejection of the loan by the Obama administration on April 26. He said there will be future rounds of the competitive loans and New York will have a strong application for the next opportunity. The $5.2 billion project would build two spans to replace an aging, overcrowded bridge across the Hudson River in New York City's northern suburbs.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Duane Callender said in a letter to the state that the bridge project scored well in its review, but the federal department didn't have enough money for it.
Callender said that if federal funds are significantly increased, the department will create a list of projects to be expedited. Although Callender didn't say the Tappan Zee Bridge would be on that list, another application was encouraged while noting lending could still be "constrained" even with more funding.
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said the initial effort was banking on a win as much as securing a spot for more favorable designation in subsequent rounds.
The rejection was a stumble for Cuomo's plan to do a major project fast. The high-profile project is a top priority for Cuomo, who sees it as a symbol of his administration.
"The Tappan Zee Bridge is a project that has been talked about for decades," Cuomo said Thursday. He said inaction was the result of the political "enemies of progress."
"We are trying to do the exact opposite with the Tappan Zee. We are saying that when there is a need, and a pressing need, government should be able to respond quickly, expeditiously, efficiently."
"It's going to be about making a statement that government can work ... and we can still do big things," Cuomo said.
State Director of State Operations Howard Glaser said announcements about the project are expected in coming weeks. He said environmental considerations are among the issues being worked out now.
In April, the environmental group Riverkeeper said the state should slow down the "breakneck" push to build a new bridge and take another look at alternatives including simply rehabilitating the existing Hudson River span. Riverkeeper urged consideration of adding new mass transit systems on the bridge and digging a tunnel instead.
Riverkeeper said the state has dismissed alternatives without enough public review and already started riverbed tests. The massive work of replacing the bridge could endanger Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, Riverkeeper said.
The bridge carries Interstate 287 over the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester counties.
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