NY's Tappan Zee officials throw hat into TIFIA ring

The New York State Thruway Authority is seeking a $2bn loan to cover a third of the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuild project. As a design-build process unfolds, private sector participation still appears possible.

The New York State Thruway Authority is asking the federal government to pick up one-third of the tab for the rebuild of the Tappan Zee Bridge.  

The agency has applied for a construction loan worth $2 billion from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) 2012 credit programme and attached a total price tag of $6 billion on the urgent rebuild project, up from a previously projected $5.2 billion. If approved, the state authority would be designated as the borrower of the funds.

“The TIFIA Loan Assistance will be secured by a system-wide general revenue bond pledge of authority revenues,” the state authority’s letter of intent indicates. Last year, $130 million in revenues were generated from the Tappan Zee Bridge and the thruway authority collected some $660 million system-wide.

But New York may have to join the queue for the credit line, as it is among more than two-dozen candidates clamouring for over $13 billion – more than the allotted amount – in TIFIA loans this year.

To be clear, the state agency says it is exploring all relevant options for the financing of the Tappan Zee, which suggests that the possibility of involving private capital remains on the table, especially as a TIFIA loan would still leave a funding gap. 

Adrian Moore, vice president of California-based non-profit think tank Reason Foundation, points out that the TIFIA programme is not exactly staying true to its roots:

“There is sort of a spirit that TIFIA was intended to do. It was created to get projects over the threshold that just could not quite get there,” Moore told Infrastructure Investor. “The fact is [public agencies] don’t necessarily go down every possible path before they go to TIFIA. And I think they should.”

Last week, the Thruway Authority coupled with the New York State Department of Transportation revealed its narrow list for the design-build component of the Tappan Zee project following the launch of a request for qualifications in December. Four competing consortia were named, including:

– Hudson River Bridge Constructors – comprised of Dragados USA, Flatiron Constructors, Samsung C&T, E&C Americas, and Yonkers Contracting Company;

– Kiewit-Skanska-Weeks – including Kiewit Infrastructure Company, Skanska USA Civil Northeast, and Weeks Marine;

– Tappan Zee Bridge Partners – a joint venture of Bechtel Infrastructure Corporation and Tutor Perini Corporation;

– Tappan Zee Constructors – a consortium of Fluor Enterprises, American Bridge Company, Granite Construction Northeast, and Traylor Bros.

Discussions between the state and the contenders will continue to unfold over the next 15 days, before an invitation-only request for proposals will be issued. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is a proponent of involving institutional capital including union pension funds in the bridge rebuild, recently signed a law that allows state agencies such as the Thruway Authority to pursue design-build structures for infrastructure projects.