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First Span of Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge Opened Last Night

The westbound 3.1-mile span from Tarrytown across the Hudson River to South Nyack in Rockland County stands adjacent to the 62-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge that will be dismantled next year. The new $3.9 billion bridge was built on-time and on-budget.
August 26, 2017, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The existing bridge, the Tappan Zee, was long ago deemed functionally obsolete. It's 12 years past its expiration date," reports "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell. See CBS news video with Ms. O'Donnell being accompanied by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in touring the structure. The bridge is named after his father.

The Cuomo Bridge is the result of a public-private partnership. It was designed and built by a private company [Tappan Zee Constructors, LLCand overseen by project director Jamey Barbas [who works for the New York State Thruway Authority with the private contractor].

The price-tag is a bargain compared to the 2.2-mile, $6.4 billion Bay Bridge eastern span, now four years old. The two bridges shared the crane used for their construction.

"The construction project is one of the largest in the nation and the biggest in the history of the New York State Thruway Authority," states the governor's press release. South and eastbound Thruway traffic will use four lanes of the existing Tappan Zee Bridge until the eastbound span opens next year. The authority has managed the bridge replacement project since 2013.

Bike/ped path, BRT, rail, history

"The westbound span will feature a 12-foot-wide shared-use bicycle and pedestrian path ... and includes space for bus rapid transit and commuter rail," states Onondaga County Executive Joanne M. Mahoney, Chair of the NYS Thruway Authority, in the video of the groundbreaking ceremony.

For history buffs – initially it was the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that was going to build the original bridge after World War II, according to Wikipedia, though south of the existing span so ito be within their jurisdiction. "The proposal was overridden by New York State Governor Thomas E. Dewey, who wanted to construct a bridge to connect the New York State Thruway across Westchester to the New England Thruway." The Thruway was named after Dewey.

The bridge was built on a very tight budget of $81 million (1950 dollars), or $796 million in 2014 dollars.

Funding, tolls

The bridge received the largest loan, $1.6 billion, from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, though there is uncertainty as how it will be repaid, particularly with the low toll schedule.

"The tolls on this bridge are only, like, $5. Can you promise the people of New York that you won't raise the toll prices?" CBS's O'Donnell asked Gov. Cuomo.

"We've promised that the tolls won't be raised through 2020. And then we're gonna have to see where the finances for the state are in 2020," Cuomo said. 

However, the uncertainty of how to pay for the construction has caused upheaval at the authority.

Implications for Trump Infrastructure Plan?

What's clear throughout the CBS broadcast is that the success of the bridge construction could be a model for the president's infrastructure plan (should it ever take off), particularly since it involved two elements of the much-talked about plan: public-private partnerships and tolls. Similar to Trump's plan, it took "two decades of dithering by government officials", reports Joseph Berger for The New York Times, but only four years to construct.

"The new bridge is a sleek two-span cable-stayed design, with the cables holding up its steel decks anchored to the tops of the angled central towers rather than to the shore, and its striking look stands in contrast to the shabby erector set of the old [cantilever] Tappan Zee," adds Berger.

With the western span now in operation, it places Cuomo, a potential presidential aspirant, in sharp contrast to the "builder" Trump, whose 2018 transportation budget calls for massive cuts in transit spending. By contrast, Cuomo is living up to his moniker, a modern-day Robert Moses.

"In an interview and in the tugboat news conference, the governor repeatedly declared that the opening of the Tappan Zee replacement — the first bridge of such scale in the New York area since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge linked Brooklyn to Staten Island in 1964 — was a symbol of New York’s daring and ambition, going back to the Erie Canal, which opened the Midwest to the port of New York and its international trade," adds Berger.

Hat tip to Mark Boshnack

Full Story:
Published on Friday, August 25, 2017 in CBS This Morning
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