At 10:52 this morning, a large portion of the old Tappan Zee Bridge became history in just seconds. The bridge, an iconic lower Hudson Valley crossing that opened in 1955, was replaced by the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
Explosives took down the east anchor span of the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee that used to connect Rockland and Westchester Counties, a portion closer to the Westchester side. Helicopters could be seen in the minutes leading up to the explosion and kids on the Rockland County side were chanting.
“Blow it up, blow it up, blow it up, blow it up, blow it up.”
Lohud.com streamed the demolition. There are plans to dismantle the western portion without explosives sometime this year. 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 with construction under way. 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. As a result, the bridge had twice the average accident rate per mile as the rest of the 570-mile Thruway system.
Building the new nearly $4 billion bridge drew national attention. And President Barack Obama stood on the banks of the Hudson River in May 2014, with the Tappan Zee as a backdrop and construction cranes in the water. He was in Westchester County to call for investment in infrastructure and announce a plan to put a number of projects on a faster track.
“The bottom line, Tarrytown, is America doesn’t stand still. There’s work to be done. There are workers ready to do it,” Obama said. “Some of them are here and they’re already on the job doing the work. We’re proud of them.”
He gestured to the Tappan Zee as a reason Congress should act to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.
Governor Cuomo welcomed one of the world’s largest floating cranes to the construction site of the replacement Tappan Zee in October 2014. Back then, Cuomo said the Left Coast Lifter, dubbed the I Lift NY crane, would allow for a cheaper and quicker construction of the replacement bridge.
“I’ve never had a deep, emotional connection to a crane before, but I want you to know that I truly am in love with this crane,” said Cuomo. “Any crane that saves the state of New York over a billion dollars, I love. So they call it the I Lift NY Crane. I call it the I Love NY crane.”
And Cuomo’s 328-foot-tall steel love was perched in the river for Tuesday’s explosion.
The grand opening for the 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. 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 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 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. The question remains just how much a toll increase could be.