Tappan Zee Bridge: New fed funding buoys hopes

NEWS 12 WESTCHESTER: Tappan Zee proposals were submitted Friday by four different contractors. (July 27, 2012)

The federal Department of Transportation announced the expansion of a loan program for cities and states Friday, raising the hopes of New York State officials looking for financial help to build a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge.

More than $1.7 billion in credit and loans would be freed up for states looking to tackle major transportation projects like bridges and tunnels in the coming years, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday.

The money will come out of the recently-enacted surface transportation bill, which provides $1.7 billion over two years, making it the largest infrastructure finance fund in DOT history.

Last month, the state was turned down when it requested a DOT grant of $50 million, a small percentage of the $5.2 billion officials say it will cost to replace the traffic-choked Tappan Zee Bridge.

State officials say they will reapply for the loan now that the program has been expanded.

"We'll evaluate it as we would any other project," LaHood said.

"We welcome today's announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation which supports our continuing efforts to pursue all financial options for the new bridge," said Brian Conybeare, Gov. Cuomo's special adviser on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

"President Obama's decision last year to designate the Tappan Zee as a priority project has helped us achieve real progress and we look forward to continuing to work with the administration and all relevant federal agencies as we move forward with building a new bridge," Conybeare added.

Cities and states will be able to apply through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, which provides direct loans and standby lines of credit for major infrastructure projects.

"Americans have always done big things not despite hard times, but as a means of overcoming them," LaHood said.

The DOT estimates that the expansion could spur some $50 billion in government investments for transportation projects around the country.

Eligible for funding are highway and passenger rail projects as well as bridges and tunnels.

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