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McKinstry: As work starts on Tappan Zee Bridge, the real question is tolls

A rendering of the new Tappan Zee Bridge

A rendering of the new Tappan Zee Bridge is on display at a community meeting at Nyack High School. (Feb. 5, 2013) Credit: Faye Murman

As the barges arrive and work trestles are built on the Hudson River, it's clear the $3.9-billion replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge means jobs.

But just how many remains to be seen. Will it be as many as 45,000, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said, or just enough to scrape together a softball team? Maybe we should split the difference?

A recent four-page state report concluded that the project will create roughly 7,700 full-time gigs a year. By the state’s convoluted calculations, that’s 38,000 jobs over the course of the five-year project.

There are opportunities in construction, design and sales. 

Heck, there are even jobs in fishing and farming. But anglers shouldn't get too excited; the same report suggests there may only be 16 of those jobs to go around. 

As expected, the majority of jobs is in the building trades, though there are also 2,000 management opportunities, as well as 938 in finance and another 525 jobs for architects and engineers.

Those who live and work near the bridge will especially appreciate money that could be spent nearby: The project might provide $2 billion in disposable income, according to the state report. Some of that money is sure to end up in the local economy -- hotels, delis, bars, restaurants and the like.

While it may take years to really know how good the new TZ will be for the economy, a lot of drivers are wondering how much it will eventually cost to cross the bridge. That will be a number they can get their heads around.