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NY advisory board favors cheapest Tappan Zee plan

Michael Gormley, Associated Press

In this artist rendering provided by the New York State Thruway Authority, “Proposal 1,” an artist’s conception of one of three designs that will replace the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River in New York is shown. On Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, the Authority released three designs with each coming in more than $1 billion under the initial price tag of $5.2 billion. (AP Photo/New York State Thruway Authority)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A state advisory board favors a $3.14 billion plan, the least costly of three options, to replace the Tappan Zee bridge in the New York City suburbs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The proposal, identified as No. 1, could mean smaller toll increases to help pay for the span. Other designs were estimated at $3.99 billion and $4.06 billion. Each had different visions of the winding bridge over the Hudson River north of the city.

Officials did not say which bidder for the Tappan Zee contract was responsible for each design. A final decision will be made by the state Thruway Authority on Dec. 17.

Cuomo's chief of staff, Larry Schwartz, who lives in Westchester, said that as a toll-paying taxpayer, "I like proposal No. 1."

Each of the designs follows, in general, the curving path of the current bridge. The major difference in appearance, based on renderings made public Wednesday, is in the superstructure over the center of the bridge.

Each design features tall towers bearing suspension cables. The towers in the favored design move outward from the bridge as they rise, resembling a person's arms reaching toward the sky. Towers in the other designs rise straight.

New York residents can weigh in on the designs at a new website. Their comments will be provided to the authority, which operates the bridge, linking Westchester and Rockland counties.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said Wednesday he hadn't heard a decision on a critical federal loan that could cover as much as $2.9 billion of the cost. President Barack Obama's administration passed over the project earlier this year but invited New York to submit another proposal. In October, Obama declared the bridge eligible for fast-tracked federal approvals.

Tolls, charged for vehicles crossing the bridge into Westchester, are expected to rise from the current $5 to $14, but a lower cost of construction could affect the increase.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2013 after a year of planning. Cuomo said the favored proposal was the most attractive even before the costs were compared. Original estimates of the massive project to replace the old Tappan Zee Bridge, opened in 1955, were about $5.2 billion.

Contractors were told the price would account for just half of the scoring for a decision, which would be determined by "the best value." The other half would include length of life and other priorities.

The first option is expected to take just over five years to complete. The most expensive option would take five years and 11 months.

Another $500 million to $800 million, however, could be added to any decision chosen for additional costs.


Associated Press writer Jim Fitzgerald contributed to this report from White Plains.