Tappan Zee Bridge vote moves forward Monday

The Tappan Zee bridge photographed on the north The Tappan Zee bridge photographed on the north side during a tour provided by the New York Thruway Authority. (March 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Rory Glaeseman

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Despite protests from the environmentalists at the Riverkeeper, a critical vote for building the new Tappan Zee Bridge is going ahead Monday morning with the Lower Hudson Valley's three county executives fully behind the project.

"We've committed to the vote so let's do it," said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell.

But the meeting might have a few fireworks. Riverkeeper president Paul Gallay said his organization will let its opposition be known.

"Monday morning, before the nine council members cast their vote, we're going to make sure they know that failing to give the public a detailed financial plan jeopardizes the whole process and the federal funding dependent on it," he said, declining to elaborate.

Plans for the meeting were set in motion following a Thursday joint news conference held by Odell, Westchester's Rob Astorino and Rockland's C. Scott Vanderhoef. The three Republicans announced that they were no longer withholding their support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $5.2 billion bridge project because he agreed to work with them on creating mass transit solutions, including forming a task force to address specifics.

At the time, they didn't know exactly when they would be casting their vote, guessing the meeting would probably be in mid-September. But on Friday, the meeting organizer, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council said the vote would take place Monday morning at a session that will be webcast live at www.nymtc.org.

NYMTC's nine board members are expected to vote unanimously for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's replacement bridge construction proposal, which will immediately qualify the project for federal loans.

Gallay and mass transit advocate Veronica Vanterpool from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, have questioned the haste in scheduling the meeting when financial plans for the project still have not been released.

In Rockland, Vanderhoef's spokesman said a statement, "The County Executive did not select Monday's meeting date -- but we're told that securing needed federal support necessitated moving the meeting forward."

In addressing the controversy with the community leaders, Odell left matters to the governor. "That's something they need to take up with the state," she said. "As voting members of NYMTC, we lent support for him to go forward for all the federal funding opportunities. We did our part."

Astorino did not respond to calls for comment.

The Monday meeting was called by NYMTC co-chairwoman Joan McDonald, a Cuomo appointee who is the state commissioner for the Department of Transportation. The council meeting will be held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at its 199 Water St. headquarters in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Cuomo's bridge project advance team, which is traveling around the region holding community informational forums, is starting to talk about the cost of the new bridge. They have also said more detailed financial plans might be forthcoming within two weeks.

The price tag, which has been fluctuating between $5.2 billion and $5.4 billion during these community talks, will max out at $5.2 billion, according to special Cuomo adviser Brian Conybeare, who made the comments during a Friday community meeting at Iona College in New Rochelle.

Once the NYMTC vote is taken on Monday, state officials are expected to immediately begin negotiations for a portion of the $1.7 billion federal loan pot available through the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

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