TARRYTOWN - Updated construction plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge reveal that the new span will cause less of an environmental impact than previously thought, and the project is inching closer to getting under way.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation issued a new draft permit for the span yesterday, with revisions to the permit it issued last year. The permit indicates that there will be less dredging and less pile-driving, and less marine life will be threatened by the bridge's construction.

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Even though all of the funding isn't in place yet, and there's no official date set for the ground-breaking, authorities say construction on the project is closer than ever. State officials have said that work is expected to start early this year.

Public hearings will be held on the new permit, and the first one will be held on Feb. 6 from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Comfort Inn and Suites Hotel in Nanuet. The next day, another hearing will take place from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Westchester Marriott Tarrytown Hotel.