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Million-Dollar Tests for New TZ Bridge to Continue into Summer

Transportation officials give guided tugboat tour of research areas

Though ground-breaking for the isn't expected to take place until late summer, about 20 workers are on the Hudson River each day, gathering soil samples and running tests in the current crossing's shadow.

The boat captains, firemen, engineers and other professionals from the state on the water are prepping for the construction of the new span, which is expected to open in 2017 and cost taxpayers an estimated $5.2 billion.

"The smart early work is underway," explained Tom Madison, executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority, Tuesday afternoon before leading some two-dozen journalists and lawmakers on a tugboat tour of the research now underway.

(See a photo gallery of the tour .)

Madison said the biggest risk factors in building the new span are the geotechnical conditions, or soil and rock on the river bottom that will support the crossing and 145,000 vehicles it serves daily.

Now, a handful of barges are carrying out boring and analyzing materials at the river's floor; the findings—be they mud, sand, shale or bedrock—will guide the who is tasked with carrying out the billion-dollar infrastructure overhaul.

"We'll have a solid understanding of the engineering principals for putting together the foundation," Madison said.

The following step, slated to stretch from April to June, is test pilings. Seven cylindrical structures close to 200-feet long will be driven into the river's soil and rock, and the pillars' strength tested. The test piles will be removed before construction begins, but the findings will be used for the final project.

"They will indicate conditions across the river," said Kristine Edwards, a bridge design development manager, during the tour.

Edwards added that precautions are being taken during the test piling process to protect river life, especially the endangered Hudson sturgeon. Since some fish and mammals are particularly susceptible to sound, engineers will drive the piles into the river with air compression technology that creates an insulation zone with bubbles and limits loud noise.

A team of biologists will also monitor nearby fish populations during the test piling project, Edwards added.

The cost of current testing and research—financed by the New York State Department of Transportation and New York State Thruway Authority—reaches into the millions. The test piling aspect costs $17.8 million, officials said, and the current boring costs $3.5 million.

The state will select the conglomerate tasked with building the span in late August, Morley said, after bids come in this July. The design team and construction team will work in tandem per a new design-build law passed last year.

"It shifts the risk back to the private sector," Madison said, noting a design-build formula means quicker built time, less bureaucracy and likely lower prices. The project is expected to cost about $5.2 billion, but the final price tag could "swing significantly in either direction," according to Madison.

No concrete plan for financing has been presented yet, though officials said toll-backed Thruway bonds are an option. Federal loans and toll hikes are also possibilities.

--

Read about the call for mass transit on the new bridge .

Read what South Nyack homes may be demolished as a result .

Read about the current bridge's shortcomings .

Read about the possibility of a Tappan Zee tunnel .

Orlando Alberto Franklin August 18, 2012 at 01:16 AM
why is there an urgency to build this bridge? especially in a bad economy...mostly contractors outside the county are doing most of the work on the bridge if not outside contractors...republicans are feasting on this lol...the folks in nyack view being block or value for homes being lost....a big joke
Vegas August 18, 2012 at 01:40 AM
What idiot would pay 14 bucks to use the new bridge?
Orlando Alberto Franklin August 18, 2012 at 01:48 AM
not me...trust me the republicans love this idea...its being forced on everyone...the people use to have the power...it's our politicians running the way we live...that bridge should have been put into the elections for the voters to decide.
Voice of Reason August 21, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Just continue the repair project on the old bridge. They are almost finished re-decking it. They have been spending our money on the re-decking project for the past few years and are almost finished. They can't just tear it down now after we just dumped all this money into the old bridge. They should have decided to replace it BEFORE repairing it. Now it's too late, they are already too far into the expense of repairing the old one and they are almost finished. Also, the pilings are fine, and if they are not, just shove a couple new pilings in and call it a day.
Voice of Reason August 21, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Also, it sounds like someone has friends in the bridge building industry. They are pushing way to hard for this new bridge. I smell a big kickback and more corruption.

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