Governor Presides Over Opening of Western Span of Mario Cuomo Bridge
John Jordan | August 2017
TARRYTOWN—More than 800 business, organized labor and political leaders gathered to commemorate a major milestone in the construction of the $3.9-billion Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge on Aug. 24— the opening of the western span of the new structure that will next year replace the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at the ceremony staged on the new western span that the functionally obsolete Tappan Zee Bridge served as a “symbol of procrastination and incompetence” and is now being replaced by a “safer, smarter structure.” He noted that state officials had worked on and debated replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge for more than two decades before he and President Barack Obama agreed to fast-track the project’s approvals. Construction on the new span officially began in October 2013 when the first foundational steel piles were driven into the Hudson River. The construction project is one of the largest in the nation and the biggest in the history of the New York State Thruway Authority.
“This is a great structure, no doubt,” Gov. Cuomo said. “But to me, this is more than a structure. This bridge is a symbol. It’s a symbol that shows this state and this nation what we haven’t been doing for years. Because in truth, this state has stood still for too long. For decades, we failed to build, we failed to push ourselves, we failed to embark on new ventures and we’re now paying the price for it.”
A highlight of the program was when Gov. Cuomo drove on the new bridge span in a 1955 Corvette with Armando “Chick” Galella of Sleepy Hollow, who drove the same model year Corvette as part of the inaugural procession that crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge on Dec. 15, 1955. The Sleepy Hollow resident is a veteran and Bronze Star recipient who survived the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
The event was staged a day before the newly named Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge officially opened to four lanes of Rockland-bound traffic overnight Friday and into early Saturday morning.
For the next few months, northbound/westbound drivers on the New York State Thruway (I-87/I-287) will cross the Hudson River on the new bridge, while southbound/eastbound drivers will use the old bridge, each having four traffic lanes available. Later this fall, the new bridge will completely replace the 62-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge when four lanes of Westchester-bound traffic are also shifted onto the first span.
Gov. Cuomo stressed that the $3.9-billion project being developed by the consortium Tappan Zee Constructors under a Design-Build contract is on time and on budget. The entire project is expected to be completed sometime in 2018. After all traffic has been shifted onto the first span, Tappan Zee Constructors will demolish the landings of the old bridge, which occupy the same footprint of the second span, and connect the second span to land. When completed, the new span will feature: eight general traffic lanes; four breakdown and emergency lanes; space for future bus rapid transit and commuter rail; a bicycle and walking path with six unique viewing areas; cashless tolling and energy-efficient LED lighting.
“Today is a great day for the Business Council of Westchester and the entire Hudson Valley. Having worked so long and hard with the business community to make this project a reality, it is a tremendous honor to stand here today on this magnificent new bridge. In addition to the thousands of construction jobs created by this project, the new bridge is vital to the long-term economic vitality of our county and region,” said Business Council of Westchester CEO Marsha Gordon.
The new bridge project has employed more than 7,000 construction workers who have logged more than 9 million man-hours.
Rockland Business Association president Al Samuels said the existing Tappan Zee Bridge “was a symbol of the infrastructure problems in this country. It was sort of the poster child for it.” He added that with the completion of the new span, “the extent we can use the new bridge for economic development, for tourism, for the attraction of new residents, that’s on us. It’s there but we have to develop it,” he said.
Matt Rand, managing partner at Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, who attended the event, told Real Estate In-Depth that the completed new span will have a tremendous impact on Rockland County and the region. “I think it is going to make it that people won’t be afraid to live on the other side of the bridge. I think it is going to move traffic. While there will still be traffic obviously, but it is going to lessen people’s fear of traffic crossing the bridge and I think that will really open up the whole corridor in a way that people cannot even imagine,” he said.
Gov. Cuomo used the event to tout his $100-billion infrastructure program that includes major projects at LaGuardia Airport, JFK Airport and the Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station. “President Trump had promised in his campaign a $1-trillion infrastructure fund. So far, nothing has materialized. But New York is not waiting for the federal government. We’re not waiting for any state to show us what to do because in New York we lead the way. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. And the same ability and the same commitment you see on this bridge today, we’re bringing all over the state of New York.”
The governor ended the event with a tribute to his late father. “Mario Cuomo would be proud of what we have done today because we have made this place a better place.”