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MOYNIHAN SEEKS TO SAVE MILLIONS ON EXPANSION PLAN

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan has persuaded the Senate to include in its omnibus transportation bill provisions that could help the Peace Bridge Authority save millions on its expansion project.

Included in the Senate-passed surface transportation bill are provisions that would allow the federal government to put its credit behind any borrowings the authority undertakes to build a twin or replacement span.

Finance experts in New York City said the federal credit backing could save the authority up to a full percentage point on debt service of its borrowings.

The bond market experts, who asked that they not be identified, said the savings could amount to $30 million either through savings on bond insurance or lowering the price of the borrowings themselves.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Gov. Pataki indicated that the governor does not now plan to intervene further in the controversy about the expansion of the bridge.

"What more can the governor do?" John B. Daly, Pataki's senior transportation adviser, said when asked to comment on Moynihan's statement that the governor should "weigh in more" than he has in community efforts to get the authority to build a signature bridge instead of the planned twin bridge.

"What could the governor do that wouldn't be needlessly intrusive?" Daly said.

Daly, a former state transportation commissioner, sees nothing inconsistent with the authority's vigorously pursuing federal permits for its twin proposal during a period the governor said should be used to give a fair hearing to alternative bridge proposals.

Moynihan's chief of staff, Tony Bullock, said the senator might formally comment on the twin-bridge application to the U.S. Coast Guard. The period during which interested people can comment to the Coast Guard ends Thursday.

Moynihan's financing provisions, according to the New York Democrat's aides, are amendments to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, or ISTEA II.

They will allow the government to provide secondary financing, credit enhancement or loan guarantees against the borrowings any agency undertakes to expand a toll-financed international bridge or tunnel.

At the same time, the senator was unable to persuade his colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee to permit direct government grants for Peace Bridge construction, as he had hoped.

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