The Tappan Zee Bridge connecting Westchester and Rockland counties is a crucial link in our regional road network. But it badly needs replacement.
So it's good news that President Barack Obama has approved Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's request for expedited federal review of a new bridge's environmental impact. This project has already been studied to death -- to the tune of $83 million -- and virtually everyone agrees that refurbishing the rickety old bridge would cost a fortune and still leave the region with an inadequate span.
When it opened in 1955, the Tappan Zee carried just 18,000 vehicles daily. Today it carries 140,000. It has no breakdown lanes, which makes traffic jams routine, and suffers various infirmities related to age and its initial cut-rate construction.
The challenge for Cuomo and Obama now is finding the billions to get a new Tappan Zee built; estimates for a no-frills bridge start at $5.2 billion, and these are surely way low. The news from Washington is a nice shot of momentum, but we worry that this will prove as ephemeral as the resulting headlines. It's vital to build on this small sign of progress. Nor should money be an impassable roadblock; higher Tappan Zee tolls can pay most of the cost.
New York needs better infrastructure, and New Yorkers need jobs. This project can provide both. Cuomo should continue pressing forward until a new span is complete.