Tappan Zee Bridge bidder asked to make changes to proposal

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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One of three finalists for the $5.9 billion contract to build a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge has been asked to make changes to its bid in order to stay in the running, state sources told Newsday.

Tappan Zee Constructors -- a venture that includes the team that built a new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge -- was asked to make the fixes if they want to remain in contention for one of the biggest capital works projects in the country.

Officials said the request is not unusual in the bidding endgame when consortiums have shelled out millions of dollars drafting a plan they hope will catch the eye of state officials.

"The conversations are focused on issues with this bid that would need to be resolved and changes that need to be made if it's going to move forward," a state source said. "After those conversations, all three bids will still be evaluated by the selection committee and there would still be a public process."

It's unclear what sort of changes have been requested. It's also unclear whether Tappan Zee Constructors -- a consortium that includes Fluor Enterprises, American Bridge Co., Traylor Bros. and Granite Construction Northeast Inc. -- will make the necessary changes.

A builder is not expected to be chosen for several weeks.

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo named a blue-ribbon panel of architects, artists and financiers to choose a favorite from among three bidders placed on the short list for the project. The panel's choice will go before the state Thruway Authority board for a vote.

The panel also has the option of asking each consortium to make changes to its bid.

"We are assembling all the final facts and costs," Thruway spokesman Dan Weiller said. "No selection or recommendation for award has been made."

Representatives for each company could not be reached for comment.

Fluor and American Bridge have touted their work on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in its bid to build the Tappan Zee replacement.

"We feel very good about our competitive position, because of our experience with our partner, American Bridge, on the San Francisco Bay Bridge," Fluor CEO David Seaton told financial analysts in a conference call this year. "And I think when you look at the execution of the Bay Bridge, it's gone extremely well."

Steelworker unions, however, objected to American Bridge's decision to use prefabricated steel from China to build the bridge. This summer the Cuomo administration signed a deal with 14 major trade unions that includes a promise to use only American-made steel on the replacement.

The other bidders are Kiewit-Skanska-Weeks Joint Venture (Kiewit Infrastructure Co., Skanska USA Civil Northeast Inc. and Weeks Marine Inc.) and Tappan Zee Bridge Partners (Bechtel Infrastructure Corp. and Tutor Perini Corp.).

State officials say the 57-year-old bridge has become a safety hazard and needs to be replaced to handle the surging numbers of vehicles that cross the span every day, causing rush-hour crawls.

The new bridge will be a dual span with shoulders and breakdown lanes.

Still to be decided is how the Thruway Authority will finance the project. State officials have applied to the federal government for a multibillion-dollar loan that would be supplemented by the sale of Thruway Authority bonds.

They intend to repay the loans with money raised through tolls. The current $5 one-way toll is expected to increase, although state officials have yet to say how high tolls will jump.

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