Planned Explosion Knocks Down Part Of Tappan Zee Bridge

Jan 15, 2019

At 10:52 Tuesday morning, a large portion of the old Tappan Zee Bridge became history in seconds. The bridge, an iconic lower Hudson Valley crossing that opened in 1955 connecting Westchester and Rockland Counties, was replaced by the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.

“If that did not go right, talk about blowing a hole in the budget. That would’ve really done it,” Cuomo said. “So we’re off with a bang.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo then delivered his State of the State and budget address Tuesday. He says the planned explosion came given the instability of the structure.

“So the contractor who owns the bridge went through a number of options, and came up with the best option was felling the bridge, they call it accelerated felling,” said Cuomo. “It means blowing up the bridge but they like to say accelerated felling, so, whatever they want to call it.”

The portion of the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge that was blown up was the east anchor span. There are plans to dismantle the western portion without explosives sometime this year.

Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President of Advocacy John Lipscomb says the demolition occurred at the quietest time biologically for the river, and contractors went to great lengths to ensure impacts on the river would be minimal. He says the demolition avoided the migration season for several species of fish, such as Atlantic sturgeon, shad and striped bass. These migrations occur in the spring. And the explosives were set to detonate above the surface, to avoid shock waves.

The Tappan Zee Bridge was retired in October 2017, when all traffic was moved to the Mario Cuomo bridge, named for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s late father. Dredging for the new bridge began in summer of 2013. The first span opened in August 2017. According to the New York State Thruway Authority, bridge traffic grew to about 140,000 vehicles per day in 2016, far more than the Tappan Zee was designed to support.

The grand opening for the nearly $4 billion Mario Cuomo Bridge was September 7, 2018. Cuomo drove across the new bridge in a ceremonial first ride in FDR’s 1932 Packard with his mother, Matilda Cuomo, in the passenger seat.

“As the largest infrastructure project in the nation, I think this project is of national significance,” Cuomo said. "And at a time when the president is obsessed with his singular goal of building a wall, this bridge stands in defiant opposition.”

Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke at the ceremony.

“I couldn’t help but think about that classic New York song, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. Well, if you can build it here, you can build it anywhere,” Clinton said. “And it is time for the United States of America to take another look at what is getting done here in New York and follow this example.”

But hours later, authorities delayed the opening of the second span, out of what they said was an abundance of caution, as a piece of the old Tappan Zee Bridge alongside was in danger of collapse. The span opened within a few days.

The steel from the Tappan Zee has been recycled, and already put to use in a number of projects, including an artificial reef on Long Island, and for bridges throughout the state.

Cuomo has said the toll on the 3.1 mile bridge is frozen through 2020, and that state finances will help dictate the toll thereafter. The current toll is $5 cash for basic passenger vehicles.