Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Counting Down . . .

An amazing sky before the last 2013 sunrise on the Hudson River/EarthCam® construction

An amazing sky before the last 2013 sunrise on the Hudson River/EarthCam® construction

You’ll hear quiet on the river tomorrow, a reprieve for New Year’s Day; construction activities resume Thursday. So during the pause, let’s look back . . .

Wishing you happy and healthy New Year! May the best of last year be the worst of next, and remember, please don’t drink and drive.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

Condensed Year in Review

Signatures, congratulations, and a loan from the government — the Thruway Authority began 2013 on an equally-high note after its 7-to-0 vote last December (2012) turned a three-mile-span that should be into the new bridge that will be.

The winning design had to pass muster environmentally; those performance commitments would be posted in real time on the New NY Bridge website.

Most equipment and supplies would be delivered by barges, not trucks, and there’d be state-of-the-art controls to limit dust and emissions.

Night view/Courtesy of the New NY Bridge

Night view/Courtesy of the New NY Bridge

Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) — a consortium of Fluor Enterprises, Inc., American Bridge Company (prime subcontractor for the current bridge), Granite Construction Northeast, Inc., and Traylor Bros., Inc. — had its hands full, er, would build the three-mile span.

The clock began ticking on January 18. Bring on the job fairs.

In March, two additional pieces snapped into the puzzle —New York State moved a bit closer to securing its hoped-for funding, and a Visual Quality Panel (VQP) joined the growing list of committees.

Money, and TIFIA, and tolls, oh my! We learned the toll booths would be temporarily moved, and we picked the towers, choosing Option B over Option A: chamfered (angled) for a more slender appearance, instead of flat and rectangular towers.

Cuomo told us the state reached an agreement with Riverkeeper, Inc. and Scenic Hudson on permits — extensive environmental protective measures and mitigation funding to protect the Hudson River, and minimize other impacts; Riverkeeper president Paul Gallay promised to keep project officials on their toes.

One of the barges near the Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Alexa Brandenberg (alexabrandenberg.com)

One of the barges near the Tappan Zee Bridge/Courtesy of Alexa Brandenberg (alexabrandenberg.com)

Boater safety. Rowing club safety. U.S. Coast Guard advisories. Project officials met with owners of boat clubs, rowing clubs, and membership organizations, and heard their concerns about sharing the water (I’ll post an update after the New Year).

A tragic boating accident in July prompted quick action — dozens of extra LED solar/battery-powered lights were added to all barges, moorings and other vessels in the Hudson River, above and beyond U.S. Coast Guard requirements, and additional safety measures were taken. Come May, a new law takes effect for recreational boaters.

By Halloween, transit issues for the new bridge, and the region, were unresolved (update is here), and despite deterrents like a government shutdown, the project moved forward. The first permanent piles were installed, Cuomo told us about new jobs created (it’s a start), and Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison closed the deal on that generous TIFIA loan approved in October.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

Bridge Business: Record-breaking Loan Approved for TZ Project

Special Project Advisor Brian Conybeare  PHOTO CREDIT: Kathy Kahn

Special Project Advisor Brian Conybeare/Photo: Kathy Kahn

News broke about the state’s historic $1.6 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for the new TZ Bridge hours before it was finalized.

“At 4 p.m. today, Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison will close the deal (with the U.S. Department of Transportation),” special project advisor Brian Conybeare revealed at the December 19 Rockland Business Association meeting.

Nearly $700 million more than anticipated, it’s the largest low-interest (3.89 percent) loan in TIFIA history, and is a major triumph for the New NY Bridge project.

Design-build legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo two years ago allows the team, Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) to speed up the project by starting construction on support systems while still finishing other aspects of final design that will be built later.

Project officials said TZC’s “must be substantially completed by June 2014,” and then it and the TA can finalize plans and designs specifics — guard rails, sound barriers, bridge access for maintenance crews and construction details of the bridge structure and foundations. Conybeare assured that there will always be a bridge between South Nyack and Tarrytown as the new one is constructed, and the current one is dismantled.

“We are fully committed to seeing this project through on time and on budget, while limiting the impact on both toll payers and taxpayers,” Cuomo said.

Public opposition to paying $14 for a three-mile ride got Albany’s attention in August 2012, after Cuomo’s secretary and chief-of-staff Larry Schwartz announced the probability of inflated cash tolls on the new bridge. Eight days later, Cuomo called for a task force to find ways to reduce those numbers.

Rest easy; the TIFIA program allows flexibility in how loans proceeds are paid. Prior to the loan signing, “the Thruway Authority sold $1.6 billion in five-year bonds, at a 2.2 percent interest cost, on Wall Street,” Conybeare said. “It won’t draw on the proceeds until 2019, and won’t have to start repaying the TIFIA loan until five years after that.”

The loan closing is “another big step forward. This is great news that will create momentum in 2014 for this major job creator and infrastructure project,” Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland), the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, commented.

Construction on the New NY Bridge began in October; test pilings and other pre-construction activities have been underway since earlier this year with temporary work platforms along the Westchester and Rockland shorelines reducing the need for dredging.

RBA President/CEO Al Samuels, who has championed for a newer, safer bridge during the past 15 years, said it couldn’t have happened sooner.

“There are people in the building trades who weren’t working a year ago, and who are now employed with the project,” Samuels said. And while “a majority of the work force involved in the bridge is in construction this year, next year they may come from a different work force.”

Mass transit talks have been discouraging, causing him to back away.

“We never heard about a Port Chester to Suffern, ride, only one from Suffern to Port Chester,” Samuels emphasized. “Rocklanders don’t want a bus to take them to White Plains to shop, because we have the Palisades Center. We need commercial expansion, and we also need a transportation mode to get people to work here.”

TZC is using the old Journal News plant on Route 303 in Clarkstown as a temporary home for the NYSP and NYSTA maintenance facilities (its current building in Tarrytown will be razed). It also leased the NRG site (former Lovett power plant) in Stony Point for construction staging and loading supplies onto barges, and has offices at three Tarrytown locations.

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times December 22, 2013.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Peace on the River

Merry Christmas! Construction is suspended today.

A nearly-full moon glows brightly in the wee hours of Christmas morning/EarthCam® construction camera

A nearly-full moon glows brightly in the wee hours of Christmas morning/EarthCam® construction camera

Also suspended is the tumult and congestion in Tarrytown — at least until January. Project officials temporarily re-opened Ramp E, which got lots of attention after its closure nearly three weeks ago. Nightmarish traffic delays and gridlock-beyond-imagination resulted from closing the bridge entrance off South Broadway — compounded by the snowstorm.

That was then, this is now. And until it closes again in January, it’s open.

Work continues on the first of four new permanent noise barriers in Rockland County, and removal of sections of the existing noise wall along northbound I-87/I-287 in the area south of Exit 10.

A temporary noise barrier and noise monitors are near Exit 10, and additional temporary noise barriers, will be installed along a local access ramp and the New York State Thruway, after improvements are made to the ramp.

Permanent pile installation near the side channels under the existing bridge is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays; occasionally, from 12 noon to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.

Recently-installed temporary navigational lights mark the 600 foot-wide main channel. The U.S. Coast Guard’s revised Local Notice to Mariners details the Regulated Navigation Area (RNA) — 300 yards north and 200 yards south of the existing Tappan Zee Bridge — established in September. Both temporary and permanent piles are illuminated at night.

Activity in the river means BE EXTRA CAREFUL.

All boaters are required to use the main channel, reduce wake and use extreme caution while transiting the area. If necessary, the Coast Guard in the future may temporarily prohibit all vessel traffic in the RNA for safety purposes. The Coast Guard boating safety information — excerpted and in its entirety — is listed under Boater Safety Information on the New NY Bridge website.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

Grab Your Camera!

A ginormous, 400-foot-long crane will arrive some time between February 1 and 15 near our very own Tappan Zee Bridge — to help build its replacement.

The Left Coast Lifter working on the Skyway in California's East Bay. ©2009 Barrie Rokeach

The Left Coast Lifter working on the Skyway in California’s East Bay. ©2009 Barrie Rokeach

The “Left Coast Lifter” was one factor that distinguished design-build team Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC from its two bidding competitors. Named for its use in replacing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge’s eastern span, the largest floating crane in the world has no problem hoisting the equivalent weight of 12 Statues of Liberty.

Where will it go? Well, none the worse for wear after traveling 6,000 miles from Oakland Harbor near San Francisco, through the Panama Canal and the Gulf of Mexico, and up the East Coast — oh, you want to know where the new bridge will be built.

Location of the twin spans that will be built north of the existing TZB/Courtesy of the New NY Bridge

Location of the twin spans that will be built north of the existing TZB/Courtesy of the New NY Bridge

And then people wanted to know why north, and why it has a larger curve, and will the (cash) tolls really go to $14?

“I heard we can walk onto the new bridge.” Yes, and bicycle, too. The northern span’s shared use path will also have viewing areas, so no more quick head turns while driving — although it’s TBD where people who use these areas will park in Nyack and Tarrytown.

Since February — when meetings were opened to the public; the first two were closed meetings — the mass transit task force has discussed county-specific and regional solutions. It appears the group might be stuck — no lead agency to oversee the new transit system, and some members aren’t happy with the short, mid, and long-term proposals.

Meantime, numerous EarthCam® construction cameras in Rockland and Westchester offer 24/7 views of the bridge, current project information and an interactive archive calendar. They’re accessible via the New NY Bridge website, and are well-situated for catching sunrises and sunsets on the water. Well, that’s mostly why I check them.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

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