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NY State Releases Environmental Impact Statement On New Tappan Zee Bridge

NYACK, NY (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Thousands of commuters use it every day and now New York State is taking another step toward construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge.

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The state released its environmental impact statement on Tuesday. It finds building a new bridge would not increase pollution to the Hudson River and found air quality might improve because of better traffic flow.

As for wildlife, the report says the project would have little effect on most creatures in the water, on the land or in the air.

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But nine homeowners in Nyack would lose their properties in the more than $5 billion project which could start by August.

"Now that we understand the environmental effects of reconstructing the bridge, it is time to start laying out real construction plans,'' said state Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald.

The draft environmental impact statement was made public as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's speeded-up effort to get construction started this year. Cuomo's office said Tuesday the project is expected to create more than 23,000 jobs.

In October, President Barack Obama declared the bridge eligible for fast-tracked federal approvals. Though the project has been discussed for a decade, this is the first time it has gotten to the environmental impact statement stage.

Construction is expected to take up to five and a half years and was downsized so it could be fast-tracked by the Obama administration as a priority project. That means there will be no special mass transit features. Its possible bus lanes or train tracks could be added in the future.

Comments on the draft environmental impact will be accepted until March 15, and public hearings will be held in Westchester and Rockland Counties in late February. A final statement is expected by July and a federal decision finalizing it by August. Construction could then begin, if funding is in place.

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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