Following ceremony, new Tappan Zee Bridge westbound span opens

STORY AND PHOTOS BY JANIE ROSMAN

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Our air-conditioned bus turned into the former Ramp E Thruway entrance and headed toward the new Tappan Zee Bridge to celebrate the opening of its new westbound span.

En route, we learned where the shared use path for the Hudson Valley’s first cable-stayed bridge would begin near the Westchester landing. A tunnel underneath that side of the bridge would allow access from the Thruway Authority’s new maintenance facility on the north side of the roadway to new barracks for New York State Police Troop T on the south side.

The path will be built in the right lane of the roadway (currently used for traffic), and sound barriers will prevent noise from local neighborhoods. Parking for the path, which will begin after the bridge is fully open in both directions, will be at the maintenance facility (Tarrytown) and within the Exit 10 Interchange in South Nyack.

“See those stripings there? That’s where traffic will shift to the new bridge,” Thruway Authority Director of Communications Jennifer Givner said. “And now you are driving on the new bridge.” Whistles and cheers erupted in our bus.

Unlike its December appearance — blue steel jump forms atop main span towers, that span not yet connected to approach spans, roadway and other components incomplete — the new westbound span was ready for its August 25 debut.

The traffic shift was to have started around 9 p.m., depending upon traffic volume, Givner said. “See the acrylic wall here? That will be the shared use path.” You can see the white stripe that we’re driving on. That’s where the barrier will be that will separate the shared use path.”

Translucent panels atop the acrylic wall were chosen for the privacy or residents whose windows face the path. Further on was the suicide preventive, anti-climb tensile mesh fencing crews installed this spring that will line both sides of both spans and the path.

“You see the Jersey barrier that has reflective tape on it,” she said, pointing what will separate the westbound traffic from opposite-direction lanes. “Two to three months from now, we’re going to add the eastbound traffic.”

The $3.9 billion, 3.1-mile twin-spanned structure has eight general traffic lanes and will have four breakdown and emergency lanes, a bicycle and walking path with six viewing areas; cashless tolling and space for bus rapid transit and commuter rail. Energy-efficient LED lighting is on the towers, on stanchions (columns) to light the roadway and under the roadway to light the piers.

More than 110,000 tons of all-American steel is used in construction, and approximately 7,000 people have contributed to date, totaling nearly nine million work hours.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Governor Andrew Cuomo cited the state’s projects — a new airport at LaGuardia, a new John F. Kennedy Airport, a new second and third track on the Long Island Railroad, a new Moynihan Train Hall “so you never have to go in that pit called Penn Station again” among others — and said New York’s mojo and confidence have returned.

Sleepy Hollow resident and Bronze Star recipient Armando “Chick” Galella was working at Frank Chevrolet in Sleepy Hollow, when then-Governor W. Averell Harriman asked for a 1955 Corvette for the “new” bridge’s opening. Galella drove with the governor across the span as part of the bridge’s December 15, 1955, inaugural process.

Following the event, he and Cuomo rode toward the Westchester approach span in a pale yellow 1955 Corvette, the same model year Corvette as the one Galella rode in 62 years earlier.