After a delay due to a last-minute safety concern, it was announced on Sunday that the southern span of the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge would be opened to traffic on the evening of Sept. 11, weather permitting. The announcement came from the contractor, Tappan Zee Constructors, which now owns what remains of the old Tappan Zee Bridge.
The new bridge was designed to carry traffic in one direction on each of its spans: Westchester to Rockland on the northern span, and Rockland to Westchester on the southern span.
A dedication ceremony was held on the new southern span of the bridge over the Hudson River on Sept. 7 and plans had called for Westchester-bound traffic to be shifted onto the southern span from the northern span which had been carrying traffic in both directions. The move was supposed to take place during the overnight hours, so the new bridge would be operating with each span carrying traffic one-way beginning on Sept. 8.
However, while workers were continuing to demolish the old Tappan Zee Bridge just to the south of the new southern span, there was a loud snapping noise heard and the remains of the eastern portion of the old bridge seemed to shift. Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters at a news conference on Sunday that all demolition workers were ordered to immediately get off of the old bridge. There was a fear that the remnants of the old bridge could collapse, possibly striking the new southern span.
Engineers discovered that a joint had ripped. “They are running engineering models to analyze what that joint shift means. What load is now placed on other members of the bridge,” Cuomo told reporters.
A subsequent statement from Terry Towle, president of Tappan Zee Constructors, said that it had been determined that “the old Tappan Zee Bridge east anchor span is damaged but currently stable with certain key components highly stressed.” Towle said the traffic shift had been scheduled for Tuesday evening. “While there remains a possibility of the old bridge east span failing, in the event it does, it will fall within a safety zone that does not affect vessel traffic or the structural integrity of the new eastbound bridge,” Towle said.
The dedication ceremony had been attended by several hundred area residents, bridge workers and politicians. The $3.98 billion project, the biggest in the history of the New York State Thruway Authority, is the first cable-stayed bridge over the Hudson.
Former Secretary of State and Chappaqua resident Hillary Clinton was among the speakers. “If you can build it here, you can build it anywhere, and it is time for the United States to take another look at what is getting done here in New York and follow this example,” Clinton said.
Before the ceremonies, Gov. Cuomo took his mother, Matilda, for a ceremonial first drive across the new span in a 1932 Packard which had been used by former New York governor and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.