Impact report OK’d for new Tappan Zee Bridge

The federal government has approved the environmental impact statement for a new Tappan Zee Bridge i

The federal government has approved the environmental impact statement for a new Tappan Zee Bridge in the New York suburbs, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today the bridge has passed “a significant milestone.”

Although financing still must be arranged, permits still must be obtained and lawsuits are likely, the governor said he considers federal approval the bridge’s biggest hurdle.

“Building the bridge is actually the easy part in some ways,” Como said during a conference call with reporters. “Not that it’s an easy task but relative to the environmental review it’s a straightforward task. So this is the aspect that had me holding my breath.”

The impact statement, released last month, concluded that the bridge over the Hudson River will have no major, lasting environmental effects. It included a long list of measures that will be taken to protect fish and people during construction.

For example, curtains of air bubbles will be used to shield underwater creatures from the noise of pile driving. Monitors measuring noise and particulates will be placed throughout the area and can be checked in real time online.

Cuomo said federal approval means New York can award a contract to one of the project’s three bidders, a decision expected within several weeks. He said the state expects all three bids to be under $5.2 billion.

The state has requested a federal loan of between $2.4 billion and $2.9 billion, depending on the size of the approved bid. Bonds based on new tolls could also help finance the bridge.

Cuomo has expressed displeasure with state estimates of a $14 toll, up from the current $5. He said Tuesday that a decision on tolls would have to wait until the bridge’s cost is known.

In October, President Barack Obama declared the bridge eligible for fast-tracked federal approvals. Cuomo praised the state’s quick work since then and said he believes the bridge is ahead of other fast-tracked projects around the country.

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