Editorial: New Tappan Zee could dazzle, too

The group will evaluate which design proposal best suits the community.

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Given the complexity of the project and the speed at which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is driving toward construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, the look of this span could have easily taken a backseat to more pressing issues.

Like that estimated $5.2-billion price tag. Or the potential for $14 tolls.

But after Cuomo's announcement , at which he named an impressive list of architects, artists, technical advisers and community members to a panel that will evaluate design and cost, it's clear this Hudson River crossing isn't going to look like an Erector Set built on the cheap.

That legacy, with any luck, will be shipped away in a million pieces with the demolition of the existing bridge.

A new Tappan Zee could even be a marvel of design and engineering, or at least a signature New York structure. Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves, but almost anything will look better than the current span.

The governor has given New Yorkers, especially those living near the bridge, hope by naming to the panel the likes of sculptor Jeffrey Koons; architect Richard Meier; Thomas Campbell, director and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and designer Keith Brownlie, who helped shape the award-winning Gateshead Millennium Bridge in Britain and the Sutong Yangtze River Bridge in China.

In addition to design, the team will evaluate tolls, future transit options and traffic management so that New Yorkers get the "best value." The panel will even have the power to send the builder back to the drawing board.

This new design push shouldn't overshadow the many unknowns, such as the bridge's true cost, the uncertainty of a roughly $2.9-billion federal loan, or any number of other issues, like the impact of construction on communities. But it does send an important message that design does matter.

So what might it look like? "We'll know it when we see it," Cuomo said.

Since the new bridge was designated a national priority by President Barack Obama and is a political priority for Cuomo, that might be sooner than you think.

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