The federal government has approved the environmental impact statement and now has given New York the green light to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. The state submitted a $5 billion plan and is requesting a low-interest federal loan of $2.9 billion, the most allowed by law, to move ahead.

Although financing still must be arranged and permits still must be obtained, NY's Governor Andrew Cuomo said he considers federal approval to be 'the biggest hurdle,' according to the New York Post.

The bridge's replacement is one of the nation's largest public works projects which was revived by Gov. Cuomo earlier this year after languishing in federal and state red tape for decades.

The bridge is a cantilever bridge in the state over the Hudson River at one of its widest points and connects South Nyack in Rockland County with Tarrytown in Westchester County in the Lower Hudson Valley. It is the longest bridge in the state (16,013 ft.) and is situated 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan.

The bridge is part of the New York State Thruway mainline, and also designated as Interstate 87 and Interstate 287. The span carries seven lanes of motor traffic. The center lane can be switched between eastbound and westbound traffic depending on the prevalent commuter direction; on weekdays, the center lane is eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening. The switch is accomplished via a movable center barrier which is moved by a pair of barrier transfer machines. Even with the switchable lane, traffic is frequently very slow. The bridge is one of the primary crossings of the Hudson River north of New York City; it carries much of the traffic between southern New England and points west of the Hudson.

Like many major roadways over time, it has fallen into disrepair.
When it first opened in 1955, approximately 18,000 vehicles crossed it daily. Today the vehicle capacity often reaches 170,000 each day.

While the state must provide a detailed financial plan it is waiting to lern whether it will receive the low-interest federal loan. Beyond the $2.9 billion the loan may cover, the state plans to pay the remainder of the bridge's costs through toll-backed bonds.

And here's where commuters get clobbered...The state estimates that the bridge toll will increase from $5 to $14. Cuomo expressed displeasure, the Post said, but added that any decision on tolls will have to wait until the bridge's exact cost is known.

The next step is selecting the team that will build the bridge. Last week Cuomo announced a selection committee that will evaluate three proposals and make a final recommendation to the State Thruway Authority's board of directors. The winner will be announced by the end of this year.