ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday named experts in architecture, engineering, and the Hudson River along with a modern artist known for his huge balloon bunnies to help review plans to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge with a more aesthetic structure for the scenic area.
The group's recommendations for the $5.2 billion project between Westchester and Rockland counties are expected by Dec. 31, the governor said in announcing the advisory panel. They also may include new mass transportation lanes and a greenway to allow pedestrian traffic over one of the widest spans of the Hudson River just north of Manhattan.
"This is really one of the beautiful places on the planet, and this bridge is going to be here a long time," Cuomo said. "I think design is an integral element here."
The advisory panel has no representative from environmental, toll-payer or taxpayer groups. But Cuomo said the environmental engineers and local government officials on the selection committee will protect those interests. One panel member, Robert Yaro, is president of the Regional Plan Association, the nation's oldest metropolitan research group, and has worked to protect important landscapes and develop parks.
Cuomo also noted that public meetings for comment on the project were held in the lower Hudson Valley served by the bridge.
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Artist Jeffrey Koons, who was named to the panel, is known for creating giant, outdoor balloon bunnies and dogs. One of his silver rabbits floated through the 2007 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for our generation to contribute to a project that will not only enhance everyday life, but help define a sense of place for New York," Koons said.
Cuomo said a new bridge would stand 100 years without major renovation. He said continuing to repair the 60-year-old span would be almost as expensive as building a new one.
He said the toll increase won't be known until the cost is set. The current $5 toll would increase to about $14 under the current proposal, with discounts for daily commuters. The Cuomo administration has estimated that simply continuing renovation of the bridge, including bolstering the base, would likely raise tolls to $12.
Others on the panel include Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Thomas Campbell and bridge designer Keith Brownlie.
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