Archive for the ‘TIFIA’ Category

ICYMI: Building Bridges: New York Increases Infrastructure Plans

Tarrytown, N.Y. – During a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Hudson Valley’s newest bridge last August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted the state’s projects. “I believe our mojo is back. Our confidence is back, our energy is back, and we know and we have proven that there is nothing that we can’t do when we work together.”

The $1 trillion promise made by Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign was also on the governor’s mind. “So far, nothing has materialized,” Cuomo said, one day before the westbound span of the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, named after his late father, opened immediately north of the Tappan Zee Bridge it replaces. “But New York is not waiting for the federal government.”

Acknowledging deficient infrastructure exacerbated by dwindling money to repair or replace it – and now in office little more than one year – President Trump presented instead a $1.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan, a $200 billion package that shifts financial burden onto states and private investors during the next 10 years.

A $100 billion infrastructure plan outlined in Cuomo’s 2016 agenda includes modernizing several airports, building a new LaGuardia Airport, increasing the capacity of public transportation, renovating Penn Station, expanding the Javits Convention Center in New York City, and investing in roads, bridges and tunnels.

“There’s one word: commitment,” New York State Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll says. “It goes without saying there are a lot of infrastructure challenges, and we’re working closely with federal partners (and) our Congressional delegation.”

Equally important, Driscoll notes, are the 2,500 local-level projects across the state. “These are very important to local economies and transportation needs, and while it’s a big undertaking, the resources are there.”

Cuomo focused on replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge after talks in 1999 to include it in a 30-mile improvement project along Interstate 287 stalled for the next 10 years. Nearly 140,000 vehicles crossed the 3.1-mile Tappan Zee Bridge at one of the Hudson River’s widest points daily; the river was visible through cracks in the pavement even with the Thruway Authority’s recent deck replacement program that began in 2007 and continued into 2013.

“At times you can see the river through the cracks of the pavement,” then-President Barack Obama said about the Tappan Zee during a May 2014 visit to the Hudson Valley. “Now, I’m not an engineer, but I figure that’s not good.”

Key elements that determine the status of a bridge are its deck or its superstructure (above the deck) or the supports beneath the deck. Ratings are based upon biennial bridge inspections; state and local governments submit the data to the Federal Highway Administration as part of the National Bridge Inventory. “Not every bridge that gets fixed is structurally deficient,” American Road & Transportation Builders Association Economist Alison Premo Black says.

ARTBA reports the average age of a structurally deficient bridge is 67 years, compared to 40 years for non-deficient bridges; states have identified needed repairs on nearly one-third of U.S. bridges. The Tappan Zee Bridge was retired in early October, two months short of its 62nd birthday.

With support from Obama and the U.S. Department of Transportation through design-build legislation signed by Cuomo in December 2011 and a fast-tracked federal environmental review and procurement process, the Empire State’s bridge replacement project (named the New NY Bridge Project) forged ahead in early 2012 when the state released its Request for Proposals.

“Design-build ignites the private sector’s ability to innovate,” Driscoll says. “It’s worked well at the state level, too, as the Department of Transportation has completed projects with design-build. It’s more cost-effective and accelerates efforts.”

When a team is hired together, it can order supplies in advance, especially if there’s a shortage of materials and a six- to eight-week window before materials arrive. “This allows them to innovate and discuss what will and won’t work early on. For example, an architect may suggest something that is too expensive for a plumber to deliver on budget,” explains Lisa Washington, executive director and CEO at Design-Build Institute of America in Washington.

Consortium Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) won the $3.98 billion contract thanks to its massive crane, the Left Coast Lifter (nicknamed I Lift NY) that reduced dredging needs by 50 percent and saved New York $1 billion. The projected cost was originally expected to exceed $5 billion. With the ability to lift 12 Statues of Liberty, the crane is hoisting and placing sections of steel and concrete onto the new bridge and is helping dismantle the old bridge. Its two moveable barriers and 133 of its deck panels will be sent to other state and local municipalities.

“Engineering professionals involved in project delivery, who regularly evaluate mistakes that make it from design to construction, observed around 80 percent of errors are created when the source engineering data is communicated through traditional plans sheets,” says Danny Kahler, principal at Kahler Engineering Group in Dallas and past chair of American Society of Civil Engineers Digital Project Delivery committee.

TZC is also using building information modeling (BIM), which is “one type of software, among many others, that helps manage the information of design and construction, especially in the vertical market,” Kahler says. “It’s the exploitation of the actual engineering data that has the potential to save time and money.”

The second span of the Cuomo Bridge is slated to open to traffic sometime this year and on budget with eight traffic lanes, four breakdown/emergency lanes, a state-of-the-art traffic monitoring system, a dedicated bus lane, room for future light rail, cashless tolling and LED lighting. Crews will then build the walking/bicycle path the new bridge’s northern span.

While the lower Hudson Valley’s newest bridge is the one of the nation’s largest infrastructure projects in the country, it has not been the only one. Two immense projects were the Interstate-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, which collapsed in 2007 during evening rush hour, and the Pentagon project just outside of the nation’s capital.

Even with harsh winters, the I-35W Bridge was completed in less than one year – three months ahead of schedule – and cost $234 million, excluding contractor bonuses for completing it earlier than planned. “The team committed to building it better and took a limited budget, partnering early on with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and building the bridge for a 100-year life span,” Washington says.

One of the nation’s largest design-build projects – the $1.2 billion, 20-year Pentagon Renovation Program (known as PenRen) – was already underway when the building was attacked on 9/11. Its model jump-started the post-9/11 Phoenix Project, which was launched immediately with a $500 million budget and a goal of reopening the damaged wings before the first anniversary. It was finished 28 days ahead of schedule and nearly $194 million under budget.

While states may have to jockey for federal money, the Empire State is taking the lead with robust plans. For the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, Cuomo believes “it was our New York energy, our New York attitude, it was our New York drive that made it happen.”

My article was originally published in U.S. News & World Report April 2, 2018.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2018

Here’s what happened three years ago ’bout now

I’ve tried to see the crane that’s now poised on the other side of the bridge; it’s not that easy. Photo courtesy of New York State Thruway Authority.

A little flashback to May 2014 . . .

The White House’s four-year, $302 billion transportation bill would reverse a longstanding prohibition — under Title 23 of the United States Code (Highways) — on interstate tolling.

Driving eastbound on the inside lane to better see the project site/© Janie Rosman 2014

Driving eastbound on the inside lane to better see the project site/© Janie Rosman 2014

President Barack Obama will be in Tarrytown Wednesday to talk money: his administration would direct approximately $150 billion into infrastructure programs, roads and bridges, as well as funds from fuel taxes.

Against a Tappan Zee Bridge backdrop, the president will highlight the urgency of replenishing the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Authorization for the Department of Transportation to spend on highway, bridge, and transit projects expires on September 30, 2014.

Due here in June/Courtesy Team Outreach

Due here in June/Courtesy Team Outreach

As the New NY Bridge project continues, the I Lift NY is currently being readied in New Jersey, and is due at the site next month. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s monumental undertaking was approved last December for that hefty $1.6 billion TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan.

For up-to-date information about this week’s related detours and lane closures, click here.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Infrastructure & New York State: the TZB Now

Governor Andrew Cuomo fielding reporters’ questions on new bridge/© J Rosman 2016

We stepped back and walked to orange cones on the northern side of the span, where Governor Coumo would answer reporters’ questions.

I wanted to ask the governor if he planned to invite President-elect Trump to the project site, especially since Trump bemoaned U.S. infrastructure at an October 14, 2015, rally in Richmond, Virginia.

“We’re like a Third World country,” he said. “Our airports, our roads, our bridges are falling down. Sixty-one percent of our bridges are in trouble. Do you believe this? We drive over a bridge, it’s in trouble.”

Although I never had a chance to pose my question it was partly answered in response to another reporter’s question. Cuomo also discussed the topic with businessman and former NYC mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis on the CATS Roundtable (AM 970) last weekend.


“Governor, New Yorkers have the most powerful man in the United States Senate, Chuck Schumer, and we have the President of the United States in Washington,” Catsimatidis said. “Can the two of them help New York State? Have you talked to them about a commitment about getting federal funds like Roosevelt got for Robert Moses?”

“I spoke to President-elect Trump to congratulate him after he was elected and one of the first things he went to was infrastructure because he’s a builder, and his point was we don’t build anymore,” Cuomo said. “He (Trump) pointed out that we do build in New York and he’s coming up with a big infrastructure program.”

“We have $100 billion,” he said. ” The largest commitment in modern political history for infrastructure, et cetera. Airports all over the state. Roads and bridges all over the state. The trick now is making it happen, getting it done. And that’s a new task for government.”


Three years ago this month Trump said he could fix the aging Tappan Zee Bridge “for peanuts,” and “The $4 billion will end up turning out to be $10 billion, and the state will never be able to afford it.”

His words came days after then-Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison closed a deal with the U.S. Department of Transportation for an historic $1.6 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for the new bridge.

Nearly $700 million more than anticipated and the largest low-interest (3.89 percent) loan in TIFIA history, it was a major coup for the bridge project. Did Trump know Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) was also nearing the end of its first year on the 62-month assignment?

I’m sure President-elect Trump has since changed his mind about the bridge project, which reached another milestone this week. I wonder if he will be awed by it as I was and hope he continues to support New York State’s infrastructure initiatives.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

It’s Nearly One Thousand Ninety-Five Days Later

Crews place road deck panels on top of the blue girders we can see while driving/NYSTA

Crews place road deck panels on top of the blue girders we can see while driving/NYSTA

Can you believe three years went by so fast? I know. Neither can I. It seems like yesterday the New NY Bridge project was approved for a ginormous TIFIA loan. Word came 10 months after Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC, started the project; the deal was finalized before the year ended.

Fluffy clouds painted onto a blue sky/© Janie Rosman 2014

Fluffy clouds painted onto a blue sky/© Janie Rosman 2014

Every time I got into a boat on the river was exciting for me, even when the weather was against me the day the super crane made its first placement. The sky and colorful machinery are a terrific contrast with the stark bridge.

If someone asked what was the most exciting I’d say it was last June, when we stood under the bridge near the Rockland side and watched the super crane place the first girder assembly. We had a perfect view of the project from river level and saw the piers in various stages of completion.

Placements can take from 1 to 4 hours/© Janie Rosman 2015

Placements can take from 1 to 4 hours/© Janie Rosman 2015

Something else I noticed when I downloaded the pictures was the crew’s fixed attention as it was happening so I cropped one picture and enlarged that section of it.

One reader suggested I document the project’s first 1,000 days. It’s a terrific idea. So much has happened between January 18, 2013, and October 15, 2015. That 1,000th day was two months short of the Tappan Zee’s 60th birthday and for some kids a special celebration. Do you notice people sometimes say the current bridge as if there are two?

Perception: cars and trucks look small/© Janie Rosman 2014

Perception: cars and trucks look small/© Janie Rosman 2014

One favorite picture from a June 2014 media tour offers size perspective: a huge truck on the bridge is tiny when you see it going by, and while the bridge is large, it pales in size next to the huge cranes and various-sized barges they’re mounted on and that move them to where they’re needed.

Year four starts Monday as the project moves closer to its spring 2018 completion date. The first meeting I covered was in March 2012;  the following April came this blog, where I post several times each week. To read a synopsis of the project by year click here, here and here.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

Recapping 2014: Condensed Year in Review

This year continued the celebration from December 2013, when Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison closed the deal on a generous TIFIA loan, and the Left Coast Lifter waved — if it can limbo under our bridge, then it can wave — goodbye to California, ready for its 6,000-mile trip to New York Harbor.

Massive crane leaving CA for New York/Jacob Tanenbaum

Massive crane leaving CA for New York/Jacob Tanenbaum

Rumor has it the state renamed the crane I Lift NY due to this blog post.

While super crane was shimmying through the Panama Canal, Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) began its second year on the clock, our toes froze, and the Mass Transit Task force was one meeting away from our travel futures. A monorail would have been fun.

Yikes! It was cold. Frozen river? No problem, tweeted project officials (, and before January ended, the super crane arrived.

by justin sullivan

February opened with name-calling: the crane had a new moniker, and folks debated about a legendary folk singer. New safety warnings were issued, the state police and Thruway Authority relocated, and then came the final Mass Transit Task Force meeting. C’mon, you knew it’d be bus rapid transit.

The morning before it, my dear, sweet father passed away in his sleep. I love you and miss you very much, dad. You may have been there, too, because more cake than I ate was missing from my plate. Dad loved cake. Thank you to friends who were there for mom and me that night, throughout the weekend to his funeral, and this past year.

new RNA safety zone

March told us Ramp E in Tarrytown would close for the second time. Mid-month brought annual meetings in both counties and new boater safety regulations. Days later, when another barge escaped, the bridge builder addressed the issue and paid stiff fines.

In April we got money for those transit plans. The Tarrytown Outreach Center relocated, and President Barack Obama and Governor Andrew Cuomo came to town in May. Some construction vessels were now tracked via GPS, and the Outreach Team visited marinas as boating season opened.

Steel piles are ready to be capped/© Janie Rosman 2014

Steel piles are ready to be capped/© Janie Rosman 2014

June announced the 2014 Bridge Art Show. It’s bye-bye to the Rockland landing, and the start of main span pile cap construction. Need funding? How about a $500M loan from CWSRF? The project team sent emergency supplies to Delaware, and EFC approved the money.

A quiet July 4th weekend was followed by stricter safety measures. The Thruway Authority got half of the $511 million, and concrete technology arrived on the Hudson. Piermont boaters now have a safe passage to the main channel, pile cap installation began, and then came a detour.

Opening night: admiring Westchester and Rockland artists’ depictions of the current and future bridge/NNYB Outreach

Opening night: admiring Westchester and Rockland artists’ depictions of the current and future bridge/NNYB Outreach

Another project first: the 2014 Bridge Art Show opened at Nyack First Friday and debuted in Tarrytown the next week, thanks to collaborating groups. Rebar alert per NNYB, and you know the loan that came through? No, no, the EPA said. Educational outreach began its second year, there were lane shifts for construction, and the viewing areas started to take shape.

October brought Cuomo’s Build NY Initiative, and the governor was in Piermont to welcome the crane. Team Outreach celebrated Halloween bridge-style, and a new electronic highway sign was tested.

Two of the new bridge's 86 vertical steel towers seen near the Westchester approach span/NNYB Outreach

Two of the new bridge’s 86 vertical steel towers seen near the Westchester approach span/NNYB Outreach

Several lane closures in November, when the state told the EPA, See you in court. The first two pier towers were completed, and more criticism about the bridge finances from an oversight office. TZC’s president received the “Good Scout” award, and South Nyack asked the governor for help.

Detours, lane closures, and more lane closures kicked off December, and the bridge had a birthday! A mid-month accident — thankfully, no one was hurt — temporarily halted cement production and not the project, which soon begins its third year.

Did I miss something? I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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