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Feds Deny State’s $2B loan request to fund new Tappan Zee Bridge

TZB Pile Testing - R. Friedman

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Riverkeeper to NY State: Fix the flaws in the draft EIS before seeking any new funding

Ossining, NY – April 26, 2012 – New York State was turned down for a federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan to help fund the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge yesterday. On March 30, Riverkeeper filed detailed comments on the draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) for the new bridge proposal which pointed out numerous legal and factual deficiencies in the report, including inadequate analysis of alternatives such as mass transit and tunnel options, and the failure to correctly assess impacts to endangered species and critical river habitat. The federal government’s decision to deny New York’s loan request was likely based on these same shortcomings, given the fact that a project must meet similar environmental criteria for approval.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) uses a range of criteria to evaluate applications for this program, including environmental impacts and sustainability. Meeting some of the following environmental criteria equals 20% of the overall 100% needed for approval:

  • The extent to which the project helps maintain or protect the environment, including sustainability; improving energy efficiency;
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • and reducing other transportation-related impacts on ecosystems, including the use of tolling or pricing structures to reduce or manage high levels of congestion on highway facilities and encourage the use of alternative transportation options.

“New York State is now officially on notice that this fatally flawed project cannot go forward without significant changes, such as including public transit from day one and addressing impacts to the Hudson River,” said Phillip Musegaas, Riverkeeper’s Hudson River Program Director. “Riverkeeper stands ready to work with NY State to fund and build this project in a way that meets our future transportation needs safely and efficiently, without causing undue harm to our environment.”

Riverkeeper commends the leadership shown by County Executives in protecting the interests of their local communities.

New York State must now seek alternate sources of federal funding, since it now lacks any clear funding mechanism to pay the proposed $6 billion for a new bridge. Riverkeeper is calling on the state to do the following prior to seeking other sources of funding:

  • Issue a Supplemental Draft EIS that fully addresses the following:
  • Alternatives such as a tunnel and a bridge with public transit
  • Alternative construction methods that would not require massive dredging of the Hudson River
  • Impacts to federally endangered Atlantic Sturgeon, and measures to avoid or minimize destruction of critical sturgeon habitat and harm to sturgeon during pile driving and dredging activities
  • Develop and publicly disclose a financial plan, including federal, state and private funding sources to pay for a new Hudson River crossing.

New York State must now go back and complete an environmental and alternative analysis, a detailed financial plan for public review, and include public transit into the proposal.

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