New span opens to westbound motorists with safety messages, speed limit

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STORY AND PHOTOS BY JANIE ROSMAN

Last Thursday, Thruway workers barricaded the Thruway entrance at Route 119 in Tarrytown prior to striping lanes and switching traffic to a brand new bridge connecting Tarrytown to South Nyack.

Drivers stopped at the now-flashing light to inquire why. That’s when a worker instructed them to follow the Route 119 detour to the Thruway on-ramp in Greenburgh. “We’re monitoring this at several locations,” one New York State Thruway Authority employee at the scene said under condition of anonymity. “They’ll be striping the lanes for cars, which is why they have to stop traffic at 9 p.m.

He likened the process to vacuuming one’s house. “You vacuum a little here, you move furniture, you vacuum a little there, you move furniture again,” he grinned.

Hours later at 1:36 a.m. Saturday, the first car drove westbound across the new span. A nurse from Rockland who works evenings said while one lane was open when she drove across, “Saturday night all four lanes were open, and the two left lanes were crowded. I guess people didn’t want to use the uneven lanes.”

She was referring to one of the gantry messages that inform motorcyclists about the uneven lanes. Other messages remind motorists to drive 45 miles per hour and prohibit trucks and trailers from using the far left lane (near the concrete barrier).

This reporter’s Saturday afternoon drive on the new span was quiet and smooth. Absent was the familiar thumpity-thump as the new bridge’s 12 expansion joints absorbed the slight expansion and contraction of the bridge’s steel and concrete. The eastbound span will have 11 joints.

Drivers are advised to maintain the aforementioned speed limit on the new bridge and not to slow down to examine the towers or stay cables. A drivable concrete strip in the second lane from the right—and outside the wheel path—is the base for the concrete barrier that will separate the bicycle and walking path.

All lanes on the new bridge are the same width as those on the current bridge. The far lane, separated by a solid white line before the cable-stayed area of the bridge and at the curve approaching Rockland, indicates a “no passing” zone.

Per the diagram, motorists will have four westbound lanes on the new bridge and four eastbound lanes on the old bridge for the next few months; its three empty lanes are being used as a construction area.

Crews need to complete the landing areas in Rockland and Westchester before eastbound traffic can be moved to the new span this fall, at which time the second span will be completed. The landings of the old bridge will be disconnected, parts of it repurposed per the Thruway Authority Board of Directors’ July approval.

One hundred thirty-three deck panels—valued at nearly $3 million including removal and delivery—and two moveable barrier machines, will be sent to eight local municipalities as well as the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). The moveable barrier system will have a new home with the New York City Department of Transportation.

“The Thruway Authority thanks motorists for their patience during this work. Motorists are strongly encouraged to follow the reduced speed limit and remain alert,” bridge project spokesman Khurram Saeed said in a statement Saturday.

Saeed noticed what many motorists observed: they have a clear northern view of the river and the Hudson Valley for the first time in several years.

The bridge has officially been minted with the name “Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge,” while a large share of local residents have said they will never refer to it by any name other than “Tappan Zee.”