Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told members of Newsday's Editorial Board on Thursday that he's "cautiously optimistic" the state will secure a federal loan considered critical to the start of construction on a $3.9 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The state's timetable for starting construction on the dual-span bridge has been adjusted several times while it awaits word from a U.S. Department of Transportation panel that reviews loan requests from states and cities looking to fix aging bridges and tunnels.

"I'm cautiously optimistic about the loan," Cuomo said during a meeting at Newsday's Long Island offices.

Cuomo sounded a similar theme earlier in the week during a stop in Nanuet.

"We haven't heard from them yet," Cuomo said Tuesday in a reference to federal transportation officials. "We haven't heard any bad news, either. We're crossing our fingers."

Twenty-eight other projects from across the nation are vying for the $17 billion pool of money available through the Transportation Infrastructure and Innovation Act program.

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The state is seeking a low-interest loan to pay for at least half the cost of the bridge project. The rest will be paid for with revenues from bonds to be issued by the New York State Thruway Authority. All the money that's borrowed will be paid back using increased revenue generated by raising the bridge's current $5 toll.

Cuomo said he has been pleased by recent progress on the bridge project, which never got beyond the discussion phase in past administrations. He noted that the bridge's price tag came in some $1 billion less than even the state's own estimates.

"So far, it's been better than expected," Cuomo said.