September 8, 2012 / 12:25 AM / 5 years ago

NY Cuomo asks U.S. to pay 49 pct of cost of Tappan Zee span

Sept 7 (Reuters) - Some 49 percent of New York’s new Tappan Zee bridge should be paid for with a federal loan of as much as $2.9 billion, according to an application by the state Thruway Authority.

The new Hudson River crossing, needed to replace the current dilapidated bridge, would also be funded with $2.3 billion to $2.7 billion of bonds that would be repaid with tolls.

Several New York governors have studied replacing the 1955 bridge, an important span for the New York City area that links Westchester County on the east to Rockland County on the west.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has made the most progress so far but the federal loan he seeks is a large share of the $17 billion total available for all states under the Transportation Infrastructure and Innovation Act.

And a proposal to almost triple cash tolls to $14 encountered such stiff resistance that Cuomo directed Thruway officials to find ways to lower that increase.

The cost of the bridge is now estimated at $4.7 billion to $5.4 billion, according to the state’s application. When one of three developers is selected in October, that estimate will be finalized.

Cuomo’s new request for a federal loan - $900 million bigger than the one he sought last year and did not get - would shrink to almost $2.5 billion under the smaller cost estimate.

A spokesman for the Thruway Authority had no immediate comment. In June, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services revised the Thruway’s outlook to negative from stable, citing financial concerns about paying for the new bridge. The credit agency rates the Thruway Authority A-plus.

The existing Tappan Zee Bridge has aged poorly and it carries 138,000 vehicles a day, nearly 40 percent more than it was originally designed to carry.

Renovating it would cost $3 billion to $4 billion and only extend its life by 25 years, state officials say, arguing a new bridge would be more economic because it would last 100 years.

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