Approved: $3.14 Billion Tappan Zee Bridge Contract

Comptroller to Closely Monitor Thruway Authority Finances

This release comes from the Office of the State Comptroller:

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced he has approved a $3.14 billion contract between the state Thruway Authority and Tappan Zee Constructors to design and build the new Tappan Zee bridge.

“Replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge is New York state’s largest single infrastructure project and is vital to our economic prosperity,” DiNapoli said.  “To protect taxpayers, my office will closely scrutinize the Thruway’s oversight of the construction of the new bridge. The Thruway Authority is responsible for proposing a financing plan and must live up to its commitment to pursue the lowest cost options and ensure that its customers are paying the lowest possible tolls. Every effort must be taken to minimize costs for this project and protect the long-term fiscal health of the Thruway system.”

DiNapoli’s contract approval does not constitute approval of any financial plan, toll increase or debt issuance. The Comptroller’s office will examine these matters separately and will monitor and audit the Thruway’s finances to hold the Authority accountable on issues of transparency, fiscal stability and operational efficiency.

The 66-month contract was won by Tappan Zee Constructors, a joint venture of Fluor Enterprises, Inc., American Bridge Company, Granite Construction Northeast, Inc. and Traylor Bros., Inc.  The Thruway Authority received three bids for the project.

The approved contract takes effect immediately.

To read the approval letter, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/jan13/tappan-zee-bridge-contract.pdf

Andromachos January 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM
Mr. Pachner as far as I can tell, a Final Environmental Impact Statement was prepared (its quality I cannot vouch for). See http://www.newnybridge.com/documents/rod/index.html
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Based on competitive analyses, a tunnel would have been far cheaper with less negative impact to the environment, the river and the skyline. Another eyesore bridge is pure pork.
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 01:36 PM
Specifically, see: http://www.riverjournalonline.com/categoryblog/2430-the-bridge-that-cant-be-builtthe-tunnel-that-can.html
Don Pachner January 19, 2013 at 02:07 PM
Thank you for that link...interesting and stimulating article about a tunnel alternative
Don Pachner January 19, 2013 at 02:11 PM
The FEIS was rushed through without sufficient review and without taking the criticism of grass roots environmental organizations into account in the final plans, in the name of expediency. The public vetting process was short-changed, in my view, so that the bridge could move forward quickly and with as little modification as possible to the state's plans. Also, ,municipal and county input was mostly ignored during the final process of moving ahead with a contract. One of the major players in the Tappan Zee Bridge Constructors joint venture will be remembered for some of their questionable deals in the Middle East.
Don Pachner January 19, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Would not be surprising. I think of the last major regional project, the unnecessary NYC DAF water filtration project in Van Cortlandt Park (the size of Yankee Statium in t the ground) that was budgeted at $600,000 and ended up over $3 billion.
Don Pachner January 19, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Mike Hirsch, let's hope the new Tappan Zee bridge does not replicate Massachusetts' experience with the Boston tunnel!
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Yes, the 9/13/2012 Saunder's article in River Journal particularly states: "... Governor Cuomo is pushing the Twin Bridges to Nowhere with no services as a jobs creator. The legislation he forced in December 2011 to achieve Design Bid Build Construction dwells in detail on the jobs to be created by infrastructure construction. Approximately 45,000 jobs over 10 years have been promised by the Governor’s sales team, and not surprisingly this is about 10 times the actual workforce of 4,000 jobs which built the TZB in 3 years, starting in December 1952 and completed in December 1955. It is evident that the design of the Twin Bridges which is being so aggressively promoted at this time is not suited to the conditions of the Tappan Zee crossing. Modern tunnel technology is exactly suited to these conditions, having been successfully employed worldwide. There are hundreds of miles of large diameter tunnels for rail and automobiles through hard rock and soft silts in Japan, China, Australia, and dozens of other countries including the U.S. and Canada."
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 02:24 PM
and goes on to state: "... Environmental benefits of tunnels are comprehensive. The surface of the river silts is not disturbed; no dredging is required; no land takings are required; air scrubbing is a natural; trucks will use the system with their engines off, burning no fuel; trains in tunnels will not contribute to pollution, noise, and danger along both East and West banks of the Hudson; all services, road and rail, can be extended across the entire 45 miles from Suffern, New York to Syosset, Long Island, with interconnecting ramps at all major rail and highway crossings. Jobs will be immediately available; a workforce of some 5,000 can start right away to complete the river crossing in less than 2 years as there will be no environmental delays and tunnel design is standardized and proven. Construction will proceed 24/7 in all weather. These jobs may be continued for more than 10 additional years to complete the originally designed and now enhanced North Ring."
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Never forget that Cuomo is a politician. His whole career is based on power-broking, bullying and self-promoting PR. Case in point: his preening over being the "first-out-of-the-box" with gun control law.
Ross Revira January 19, 2013 at 02:37 PM
For anyone to believe that a tunnel is cheaper to build than a bridge is either ignorant of construction costs or has an agenda to push. To compare construction costs in China and New York (higher than anywhere else in the US) is like comparing apples and oranges. Does China have a unionized work force with labor rules that drive up costs daily? Does China care about the environment? Ask the residents of China's cities that question. Does China care about the residents concerns about noise and polution? Ask the people in detention that dare to speak against their government. I agree that a tunnel would be a better alternative to a bridge but this is reality, not the Twilight Zone.
Mike Hirsch January 19, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Very interesting article Randall. Thank you. Food for thought. Personally, I prefer to walk, bike, or ride over a bridge rather than a tunnel. Many bridges are beautiful, such as the one at Bear Mountain. As far as Cuomo is concerned, I agree that he is a power broker and politician first. That's how he got the job. But that doesn't mean he can't do good things. I think it is good for the government to create infrastructure jobs when the private sector cannot.
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Respecfully disagree. If anyone has an agenda to push, it is Cuomo and his machine. Mr. Revira, you extract one data point (China) and try to base your entire position on that, a specious position at best. The article also mentions: "Japan, China, Australia, and dozens of other countries including the U.S. and Canada". As for noise and pollution, if you read the article carefully (http://www.riverjournalonline.com/categoryblog/2430-the-bridge-that-cant-be-builtthe-tunnel-that-can.html) you will see that tunnels dramatically REDUCE deleterious environmental impacts, not increase them. Perhaps you should do you homework?
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 03:08 PM
As for construction costs, if you do the math you will see that the delta between what a tunnel would cost vs a bridge will more than compensate for "a unionized work force with labor rules that drive up costs daily".
Ross Revira January 19, 2013 at 03:28 PM
What special skills do you have that a myriad of engineers, designers, and constuction experts don't have. What reason does Gov. Cuomo have to build a more expensive less effect Hudon crossing. Why is it no matter what project there is there is always one person that knows more than anyone else? By the way I am not a big fan of Cuomo.
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 03:43 PM
Good points. Perhaps Cuomo should compare tunnel vs current bridge plan line item by line item before ram-rodding the bridge through approval.
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 03:45 PM
BTW, the "myriad of engineers, designers, and constuction experts" have an agenda, i.e. pork. An independent outside engineering audit with experience in both bridge and tunnel projects would settle the matter.
Aintthatascam January 19, 2013 at 04:13 PM
I think importing sections of tunnel from China and having non-union workers involved would have been much more cost effective. How often do you have to paint a tunnel? Won't rust. Now, money under the table, favors, and corruption will take over. 6 guys standing around a hole with their hands in their pockets, etc. etc. etc.
Laborers Local 754 January 19, 2013 at 04:57 PM
The tunnel option is by no means a definite cheaper option. Due to the soil conditions at the crossing, the tunnel would have to be set deeper than soft soil tunnel engineering protections can operate at. Most likely it would have to be set into bedrock(due to shifting soils and earthquake risk)thus making the large investment that the State made building the approach area in Westchester a waste. Also, with the new approach needed on both sides of the river, the seizure of private land would be substantially larger than what we are dealing with now. We all know the problems that causes. Looking at the article presented in the post, one only has to read the first paragraph to see that the information is weak at best. It says THe Governor's $5 billion + estimate is wrong and it will be closer to $6-8 billion. In fact, the design-build team came in at $3 billion +. Substantially lower than estamites. In their haste to prove a tunnel's value, the author did not research the state of the art designs for bridges today. In a perfect world, we would like a tunnel because it is better if economically and structurally sound. It also would create more jobs for members of my local.
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 04:59 PM
No doubt, Cuomo is a necessary evil/blessing depending how you relate to his position and style -- provided he doesn't sc___ the pooch (i.e. his constiuents) in the process. I seriously doubt, however, that politics as usual in Albany will change much under his administration.
Laborers Local 754 January 19, 2013 at 05:06 PM
THe quote" a unionized workforce with labor rules that drive up costs daily" obviously was made by someone who is not familiar with how private construction unions opperate in Rockland County. A big reason why the design/build team was able to come in with a very competitive number has to due with anticipated production rates that a highly skilled, trained, and experienced private construction union workforce can achieve. It is also due to the cost savings made possible by the PLA on the project. A PLA that the Rockland and Westchester Building and Construction Trades negotiated because we are concerned with the taxpayers of NY and understand the financial condition of the country as a whole. It is also important to recognize that the trades did not have to agree to the PLA as a condition for representation on the project. The four design/build teams that the State short-listed all have existing collective bargaining agreements with the main trades(Laborers, Iron Workers, Operating Engineers, Dock Builders). With or without the PLA and the cost savings in it, those trades would have been on the project.
Laborers Local 754 January 19, 2013 at 05:07 PM
For those interested. Here is a link to various tunnel building methods and requirements for use: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/tunnel/pubs/nhi09010/07.cfm
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Thanks - great reference source! Particularly this: "7.3.2 Earth Pressure Balance and Slurry Face Shield Tunnel Boring Machines As a turning point in global tunneling equipment development, soft ground tunnel shields equipped with wheeled excavators were exported to Japan . Further development of soft-ground tunneling machines was flat in the USA for many years, Japan, however, took a good idea, invested heavily in equipment development and within a decade or so exported vastly improved tunneling methods back to the USA in the form of pressurized-face tunneling machines."
Laborers Local 754 January 19, 2013 at 05:32 PM
You are obviously a person who has no understanding of how private construction works. I challenge you to last one day with "your hands in your pockets " on any jobsite my members currently work at. You would be fired in one hour.
Laborers Local 754 January 19, 2013 at 05:37 PM
If a tunnel was incorporated in the design of the area 20 to 30 years ago, I think it would be feasible. I am not so sure it would be a cheaper alternative currently due to the recently completed landing area on the Westchester side of the Hudson that was designed with a bridge in mind. I also have read where there is disagreement between experts as to the structural integrity of a soft-soil shallow tunnel built in these soils on an active fault. The chances may be too big to risk. I do agree that we should have researched it better even 10 years ago so we could pull the trigger now if we wanted to.
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 06:54 PM
Your reasoning makes sense. To me, this reinforces the need for an independent engineering study comparing dollar-for-dollar the current bridge proposal vs a bridge proposal taking into account the "sunk" (no pun intended) costs to date. But, as we have already established, politics and reason are not necessarily the same things.
Randall Petronus January 19, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Correction to last post: "... comparing dollar-for-dollar the current bridge proposal vs a tunnel proposal ..."
Demerese January 20, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Excellent and factfull reply!
Demerese January 20, 2013 at 03:50 PM
As an aside...the bridge design which appears to have been chosen looks suspiciously like the Honda Motor Comapany's logo. An advertising fee should be sought.
Catherine Wachs January 20, 2013 at 03:50 PM
The cost is mind-numbing. If it goes anything like the 287 project, maybe my great, great grandchildren will be able to use it.


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