By Janie Rosman
Quick, grab your camera and head over to the Hudson River!
New York State is in the process of replacing the aging and overworked Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, which opened in 1955: Tappan Zee Bridge archives, during a five-year project slated for completion in 2018.
It might be the last summer to snap seasonal pictures of this magnificent, three-mile structure before the world’s largest floating crane, the Left Coast Lifter, arrives here via the Panama Canal and the Gulf of Mexico.
Larger than a football field, it measures 400′ long by 100′ wide and was built by U.S. Barge in Portland, Oregon.
Earmarked by then-Governor George E. Pataki more than a decade earlier, this will finally happen, creating jobs and revitalizing the area.
Citing the Hudson Valley is a destination gateway, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “The bridge is a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project in an environmentally sensitive area in one of the world’s most beautiful regions.”
Memories include my parents packing my brother and me into the car and heading “upstate” to the country for weekends in the country. They told me the bridge goes into the water – it does have a downward slant – however my child’s mind imagined us driving, and then submerging, into the Hudson River.
Fifty years later, I still get a kick thinking about it, in addition to envisioning who-knows-what-else-might-happen. The once sturdy structure that will soon be replaced is causing more excitement than a Bruce Springsteen concert. OK, I’m guessing, however the mention of Bruce’s name DOES cause a stir.
Not as much of a stir, though, as this bridge project has caused.
The New Year began on a positive note (no pun intended), seamlessly following the Thruway Authority’s 7-to-0 approval (December 2012) of Tappan Zee Constructors as the chosen design-build team the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing project.
A temporary Westchester-side trestle will support a crane for construction of both the westernmost and easternmost parts of the new bridge; a similar work platform on Thruway property will be situation near the Rockland County shoreline.
These two 1,000-foot platforms will remain in the river throughout the project. Real-time noise, vibration and air quality monitors are already in place in Westchester and Rockland counties.
Did you know the current bridge is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (under Criteria A and C in Appendix D – Preliminary Section 106 and 4(f) Analysis for Tappan Zee Bridge)?
And that the purportedly-100-year-old wood barge and its coal cargo submerged below the bridge – reminiscent of the river’s role in industry and commerce, and in the impending construction zone – are also recommended for that same prestigious honor?
What’s doing below water level, though, seems secondary to how busy the river will become, as machinery keeps company with rowers, kayakers and private schooners.
“Recreational boaters will still be able to enjoy the Hudson River during construction,” special project advisor Brian Conybeare said. “Tappan Zee Constructors is required to maintain navigability under the current span, but boaters must comply within the existing 25-yard restricted zone around all bridge structures.”
Hudson River Boat & Yacht Club Association, Inc. vice president Scott Croft understands boating activities will be limited.
“The river is a navigable waterway and has to stay open, and commercial boats need safe passage,” Croft said. “The (U.S.) Coast Guard usually sends advanced local notices to mariners, advising restrictions.”
Since September 11, 2001, boats are no longer permitted to anchor near the Tappan Zee Bridge. “We know it (bridge) needs to be replaced, and boaters will need to be vigilant and on the lookout,” Croft said.
Only the Coast Guard, state police or local marine police units have enforcement powers on the river, where warning signs will be placed. “We do encourage boaters to stay clear of construction areas at all times,” Conybeare said.
And when it’s complete, even the toll plaza in Tarrytown will have a new look.
During construction, a temporary overhead archway, much like a highway sign structure that holds E-ZPass® readers, will be installed at Exit 10 in South Nyack. Motorists who do not have E-ZPass® need not feel left out; cameras will take pictures of license plates and mail each driver a bill for the toll fee; when the new bridge and toll plaza are completed, the gantry will be removed.
Conybeare and project director Peter Sanderson said the work is consistent with the public environmental review process and the design-build contract documents.
Meantime, keep your camera handy . . . we may get to watch history unfold, and the bridge take shape, at to-be-decided viewing sites. It’s going to be one interesting summer.
Janie Rosman has been published in The Hudson Independent, Ulster Publishing, Poughkeepsie Journal, Patch Media, The Journal News, Westchester Parent, and Westchester Commerce Magazine. She blogs about the Tappan Zee Bridge and other things at nykeypad.wordpress.com.