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As Tappan Zee Bridge Is Dismantled, Parts Find New Life

The 62-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge was officially retired in October. And there was a milestone reached this week in its dismantling. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo led a boat tour with reporters Tuesday to talk about that milestone and how the pieces from the old bridge will be put to use.

“And we’re going under now that long span that will eventually be lowered by strand jacks,” said Barbas. “This is the very big one.”

That’s Jamey Barbas, project director of the new New York Bridge, aka the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. She was pointing out which sections are to be removed next. The piece lowered into a barge Tuesday was the milestone, and the first of five sections of the 2,415-foot main span, the center span, which is longer than 500 feet and weighs more than 4,700 tons.

“So it’s a very slow lowering of the old span onto a barge that’s waiting for it. And the reason why it goes so slowly is it’s being lowered by eight hydraulic strand jacks very gently so the strands don’t get twisted. And it’s going well. They were working all through the night. We’re going to have a few more hours to go before it touches down,” Barbas said. “And then it’s going to go south of the bridges and it’s going to be dismantled and recycled. It might be your new car one day.”

And off to the salvage yard it went. Governor Andrew Cuomo:

“The steel is recycled and the parts that can’t be recycled will go to become an artificial reef off Long Island,” said Cuomo. “So the Tappan Zee will live and will still be serving the state as part of artificial reefs off Long Island.”

Again, Barbas.

“If you look in the distance at the concrete pier columns of the old bridge, they look liked u-shaped, those are going to be disposed of in the reef. They’re really good to increase the fish habitat as well as some steel pieces, and as well as some steel piles that went into the ground. They were pulled out,” Barbas said. “And the fish seem to really like about a 3- or 4-inch diameter pile that supported the old bridge at one time.”

Matt Driscoll is acting executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority. He says there is other repurposing of the Tappan Zee. Some of the deck panels have been sold to municipalities across New York.

“And, to me, it’s really a sign of good government because we’re taking something that still has a useful life. We’re selling it for $1 to local governments, and they’re putting that to good use,” said Driscoll. “And that’s really a great benefit for all the taxpayers across New York state.”

The 3.1-mile Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, whose name has sparked controversy, is the first cable-stayed bridge across the Hudson River. Plus, says Cuomo:

“And this project is the largest infrastructure project going on in the nation right now,” Cuomo said.

Barbas says the new bridge that connects Westchester and Rockland Counties is about to hit some milestones of its own.

“Right now, the second span, the second new bridge is almost closed. If you look at it from steel to steel, to one end, there’s only a small amount in Rockland that we’re going to lift in place, a tiny span over a local road,” said Barbas. “And then we will have a connection of the steel for the new span from end to end, which is also going to be a fantastic milestone to meet shortly.”

The second span of the $3.98 billion Mario Cuomo Bridge is expected to be open by the end of the year. Westchester County Executive George Latimer joined the boat tour.

“It’s also important to remember that this bridge and the new bridge that’s been created is an economic lifeline to this region. Those of us who live on the Westchester side of the bridge have many connections on the east side of the bridge. I commuted over this bridge as a reverse commuter, as a Westchester resident, to employment on the Rockland side,” Latimer said. “And many of our major corporations in Westchester County — Mastercard, IBM, PepsiCo, Regeneron — have employees, executives who live in Rockland and Orange Counties and northern New Jersey.”

Cuomo says the bridge is on time and on budget.

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