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Bridge award a ‘huge’ step for region

Tappan Zee Bridge proposal
The New York State Thruway Authority selected this $3.1 billion proposal for the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

Business leaders in Westchester County see a turnaround ahead for the region’s construction industry and a five-year bounty of jobs and business opportunities here after state officials took a major step recently with the selection of a contractor for the Tappan Zee Bridge project.

“This is truly a historic day for the New York State Thruway Authority,” said Howard P. Milstein, Thruway Authority chairman, after the agency’s board unanimously awarded a $3.142 billion design-build contract to a four-company consortium of construction industry heavyweights at its Dec. 17 meeting. “It’s also a historic day for the procurement process of New York state.”

The winning bidder, Tappan Zee Constructors, submitted not only the lowest price for the proposed project but also the best value, Thruway officials said. Of three competing bidders, the consortium proposed the shortest project completion time – 5 years, 2 1/2 months – and the least environmental impact on the Hudson River, with approximately 951,000 cubic yards of dredging.

With state officials estimating an additional $500 million to $800 million in project costs on top of the base construction contact, the bridge replacement could cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion less than the state’s previous $5.2 billion estimate. Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison said he hoped to realize $2 billion in project savings compared with initial estimates.

The winning consortium outbid Tappan Zee Bridge Partners, a joint venture of Bechtel Infrastructure Corp. and Tutor Perini Corp., which proposed a $3.99 billion project, and Kiewit-Skanska-Weeks Joint Venture, with a high bid of $4.059 billion.

Tappan Zee Constructors is a consortium of Fluor Enterprises Inc., American Bridge Co., Granite Construction Northeast Inc., and Traylor Brothers Inc. An industry source said state officials between now and February will negotiate final terms with the consortium and a contract could be signed by February or early March.

Leading the design-build team is Fluor Corp, a publicly traded international construction company headquartered in Irving, Texas that reported $23.4 billion in revenue in 2011. The company has a 30 percent ownership stake in the Tappan Zee joint venture.

Fluor spokesman Keith Stephens called the Thruway Authority award “an important and huge step ahead, and we’re excited to get started with our team that has a great heritage of building bridges in this country and is looking forward to tackling this project.”

Milstein joined business and political leaders in praising Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the prime mover behind the challenging bridge project after what the Thruway chairman called “12 years of dysfunctional inaction” in Albany. Cuomo one year ago persuaded state lawmakers to adopt his New York Works Infrastructure Fund Act , which permits design-build contracts on bridge and other  infrastructure projects for the first time in state history, bundling design and construction services in one contract and shifting most project cost overruns from the state to developers. He also has led the state’s effort to obtain a federal loan to finance the project.

The Tappan Zee design-build “is seen as a model for how mega-projects should be run,” said Milstein. “This is such a wonderful expression of what government, using private sector dollars, can do rapidly.”

The state still does not have project financing in place, which is needed before Tappan Zee Constructors can start work next year. The 3.1-mile, twin-span bridge is scheduled to open in 2018, replacing a 57-year-old Tappan Zee span crossed by about 138,000 vehicles daily.

Ross J. Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester and Hudson Valley Inc. in Tarrytown, said 3,000 to 4,000 construction jobs will be at the Hudson River crossing and two landing sites over the five years of the project. “There will be many hundreds, if not thousands more in the region that will be providing services and materials to the project,” he said.

Pepe said the region’s building trades unions “across the board” are down about 45 percent in work hours and employment numbers from peak years. “It’s been much longer than the previous downturns that we’ve experienced in the past two or three decades,” he said.

The Tappan Zee project “is a real boost to the economy and the industry,” said Pepe, whose trade organization represents about 500 companies in the region. “We’re looking for this to be a real opportunity for turning around the economy in a whole new direction from the past five years.”

Business Council of Westchester President and CEO Marsha Gordon said the organization will be “a bridge” between the Tappan Zee contracting team and Business Council members and plans to host meetings where members can explore business opportunities with bridge contractors.

Design subcontractors for Tappan Zee Constructors include Savin Engineers P.C., an approximately 130-employee engineering firm in Pleasantville, and Hudson Valley Engineering Associates P.C., a Beacon consulting company that focuses on federally aided state and municipal construction projects.


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