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Editorial: Get info before bridge vote

The Tappan Zee Bridge seen from Nyack. (Feb.

The Tappan Zee Bridge seen from Nyack. (Feb. 17, 2012) Credit: Photo by Angela Gaul

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council was right to put off a vote that is needed if a new Tappan Zee Bridge is to become a reality.

A decision earlier this week by the nine-member body -- known as NYMTC -- doesn't slam the brakes on this project, but it is a good reminder to proceed with caution. Especially with so many unknowns.

Postponing this action until September shouldn't be viewed as a scheme to waylay construction of the new three-mile span, which is vital to New York. The move was a reasonable means of getting more information from the state.

There are real questions about how to finance the $5.2-billion project, as well as worries about the bridge's appearance and how this massive infrastructure effort will affect the region. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his administration must now do their best to satisfy these concerns.

NYMTC's vote, originally scheduled for July 10, was halted at the request of members, notably county executives from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, so they could at least review the final environmental impact statement, which is expected to be completed by the end of the month, before voting.

The committee's sign-off is necessary to secure federal funding. Without unanimous consent from the council -- which, in addition to the three Hudson Valley executives, includes Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, and leaders from New York City -- there will be, in all likelihood, no bridge. But this pause won't hurt the odds if a vote occurs at NYMTC's September meeting.

Four competing firms are set to have their bids in on July 27; a final impact statement that addresses environmental, community and noise concerns will be public in early August; and more details on tolls should be coming shortly.

Leaders won't know all the nuts and bolts of building this new Tappan Zee -- but they should have enough information to make sure this project doesn't get mired in gridlock.