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Editorial: Credit the new Tappan Zee Bridge to Cuomo

Buffalo, take heart. If the state can build a new Hudson River crossing to replace the aging Tappan Zee Bridge, the city can surely – someday – get a new Peace Bridge. Really. It could happen.

It certainly has downstate. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday drove a 1955 canary yellow Corvette across the first section of the $4 billion bridge to open. The first public use was early Saturday.

It is appropriate that Cuomo had the pleasure of the first drive across the new span. After years of dithering and delay under previous governors, it was he who insisted that the new bridge be built. Infrastructure has a lifespan and the Tappan Zee, which crosses the Hudson River at one of its widest spots, had hit the wall. Expensive as it was, the work needed to be done.

What is more, and also to Cuomo’s credit, the work was done on time and within budget. Given the scale and scope of the project, that’s an achievement. Indeed, that good work began at the project’s inception. Instead of creating its own designs, the state put the bridge’s design and construction out to bid and, in the end, produced a project that cost $1 billion less than the state had feared.

Not that it was cheap. The $4 billion price tag will take years to pay off, funded in part by tolls. Those fees are expected to remain comparatively low – $5, or $4.75 for E-ZPass holders – through 2020. After that, they could change.

Other funding for the project came from Washington, which so far has provided a $1.6 billion loan, and from the state, which contributed $1.2 billion from legal settlements with banks and financial companies. The New York State Thruway Authority, which owns the bridge, came up with another $850 million.

It’s a striking, even beautiful structure, especially compared to its dowdy and dated predecessor, which will be taken down after construction is complete. That is expected sometime next year, with a more formal opening scheduled in June, on the birthday of Cuomo’s father, the late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, for whom the bridge will be named.

There is a valuable lesson here for anyone in Buffalo who likes the idea of getting things done: First, get them started.

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