WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The Tappan Zee Bridge has become so dilapidated and is so congested by traffic that it should be torn down and replaced with a new eight-lane bridge with commuter rail tracks, a state task force has recommended.
A new bridge would cost about $4 billion, according to the task force, which was appointed by Gov. George Pataki last year to study ways to ease traffic on the Tappan Zee.
The panel also recommended increasing tolls during peak driving periods to reduce congestion while a new bridge is under construction.
The recommendations are likely to be unpopular with many people on both sides of the Tappan Zee, which spans the Hudson River between Nyack, in Rockland County, and Tarrytown, in Westchester County.
But the task force, which was headed by E. Virgil Conway, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that it would cost $1 billion to rehabilitate the bridge.
The better solution, the task force said, would be a new bridge parallel to the existing one, with four lanes in each direction, bracketed by commuter rail tracks. The existing bridge, which opened in 1955, would then be demolished.
The rail link would consist of two new pieces. One would originate at Stewart Airport, in Newburgh, and end at an existing terminal at Port Jervis. The other would stretch from Suffern, cross the new bridge between Nyack and Tarrytown, then end at an existing station in Port Chester.
If approved, the bridge-and-rail project could be finished in 10 years.
In the meantime, the task force recommended, the best temporary solution to alleviate a nightmarish commute would be to introduce what is called congestion pricing, which raises the toll at certain times of day to induce drivers to make the trip at times of lighter traffic.
There is no timetable for action by the governor. The governor said last summer that replacing the bridge was an option because "it is so old and does need such major repair."
Many residents, environmentalists and transit groups appear to be gearing up for what could a dogged fight against the recommendations. They say that the task force's suggestions leave many crucial questions unanswered, including whether the project will entail widening the Cross Westchester Expressway, whether the federal government will pitch in with financing and how much land will need to be condemned.
"Huge feasibility questions are not answered," said Jon Orcutt, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a coalition of private environmental groups. "So we think the new bridge is a Trojan horse for widening the Thruway in Rockland County."