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Large Crane Arrives To Help New NY Bridge Project As Toll Question Remains

WAMC, Allison Dunne

New York state officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, welcomed the one of the world’s largest floating cranes to the construction site of the replacement Tappan Zee Bridge Monday. At the same time, the governor’s opponent in the November election called for details on the new bridge’s expected tolls. 

The Left Coast Lifter, dubbed the I Lift NY crane, arrived just south of the current Tappan Zee Bridge, after journeying some 6,000 miles from San Francisco. Governor Andrew Cuomo says the 328-foot-tall crane, which sits on a barge larger than a football field, will allow for a cheaper and quicker construction of the replacement bridge.

“I’ve never had a deep, emotional connection to a crane before, but I want you to know that I truly am in love with this crane,” says Cuomo. “Any crane that saves the state of New York over a billion dollars, I love. So they call it the I Lift NY Crane. I call it the I Love NY crane.”

After Cuomo’s crane welcoming on the Rockland County side, Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Rockland County Executive Ed Day stood on the banks of the Westchester side of the Hudson River in Sleepy Hollow, calling on Cuomo to disclose project financing details and how much the toll will be. Here’s gubernatorial candidate Astorino.

“The governor through no transparency, through utter contempt for not only the voters but certainly the commuters over the Tappan Zee Bridge, refuses to explain how this bridge is going to be paid for and how much the tolls are going to be,” says Astorino. “We know they’re going up, but he won’t tell us by how much.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Cuomo says commuters should have to pay as little as possible. He says he is not withholding the toll rates until after the November election, because the information needed to determine a toll structure will not be available for at least several months. Cuomo says the bottom line on tolls comes to the following variables.  

“What is the actual cost of the bridge? What do you get from the federal government in terms of grants and loans? What do you get from the state in terms of grants and loans?” Cuomo says.

Speaking on the other side of the river, Astorino says he does not see a way, given current information, to avoid a doubling or tripling of the $5 toll on the current Tappan Zee.

“We still have no idea how they’re going to pay for this bridge. They have no idea how they’re going to pay for this bridge, other than raise tolls to a dramatic fashion, probably equal with what the George Washington Bridge will be. That’s the rumors,” says Astorino, “But he will not tell anybody what we’re going to pay.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Cuomo says he does not know and insists he is not guarding information. Here’s Day:

“And what we’re asking as county executives on each end of this water is we’re asking for a number. We want to understand what the costs are going to be, how’s it going to impact the people of Rockland and Westchester and the region,” says Day. “That is a critical issue from an economic perspective in many, many ways.”

Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee who represents all of Rockland and parts of Westchester, agrees with Cuomo on being unable to come up with a toll estimate at this time.

“And I want to make it very, very clear -- the governor is focused, Nita Lowey is focused on keeping this toll as low as possible,” says Lowey. 

Lowey says she will do her part to look for more federal funding. She helped secure a $1.6 billion federal loan to help finance construction of the replacement Tappan Zee, the largest loan of its kind ever. Cuomo says on top of additional federal funding, he will look to state grants, as well as bank settlement money in financing the estimated $3.9 billion bridge. Other funding has not been approved. The Environmental Protection Agency in September shot down the bulk of the nearly half-a-billion dollars requested in loans for the new New York Bridge project, saying the money cannot come from clean water funding.

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Meanwhile, Special Advisor to the Governor on the New NY Bridge Brian Conybeare says the crane can lift up to 1,900 tons, or 12 Statues of Liberty, at once. In addition:

“It allows Tappan Zee Constructors to prefabricate huge sections of this bridge off site, in factories where they can do it safer, more efficiently, and at a higher quality.  Then they can bring those huge sections of the bridge, whether it’s structural steel or concrete, down on barges,” says Conybeare.  “This piece of machinery can lift up these huge loads and put them carefully into place using highly-sophisticated GPS technology and computers.”

Those factories are across the U.S.  

Cuomo also announced the launch of Build NY, an initiative he will introduce to the legislature, to redefine the state’s approach to strengthening infrastructure under the design-build model used for the replacement Tappan Zee Bridge. Design-build allows complex projects to combine design and construction into one bid and contract, reducing time and cost and bringing the private sector into public sector projects. Cuomo notes the bridge project is on time and on budget.

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