The vast majority of residents in Rockland and Westchester counties believe the state will spend more time and money building a new Tappan Zee Bridge than politicians would have them believe, according to a new Siena College poll commissioned by Newsday and News12.
"It's going to come in later and cost way more," said Michell Speight, 54, a New Rochelle resident who works for the Dyson Foundation. "Construction never works out well. It's always over budget and people are always overoptimistic about the time frame."
But Siena pollsters found that a whopping 79 percent of respondents were either "not very confident" or "not at all confident" that the state would avoid cost overruns. Only 18 percent expressed confidence that the bridge would cost its estimated price tag.
People were also pessimistic about the state sticking to the governor's timetable. The poll found that 62 percent of respondents weren't confident that builders would make the five-year deadline. Only 35 percent felt otherwise.
"It's a statement on how people feel about public works projects of this scope," said Siena College pollster Donald Levy. "Trust in government is low at this point in time."
But a majority of respondents felt the state would perform one function well: protecting the environment during construction.
Asked if state officials would safeguard the river and mitigate noise and pollution for residents near the construction site, 58 percent said they believed the state would do so. Thirty-eight percent believe the state would not adequately protect the environment.
Tzipporah Brezner, 51, a science teacher from Airmont, said her husband is a chemical engineer at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. His colleagues would enforce rules to protect the river and its neighbors, said Brezner, who was also among those polled.
But she also said the environmental rules were a key reason the bridge would likely be more expensive and take longer to build than expected. "If you want to delay something, a very good way to do it is to bring up a lot of environ concerns," Brezner said.
The poll of 627 Rockland and Westchester registered voters, conducted Oct. 11-17 by the Siena College Research Institute, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.