Well-known Construction Attorney Spreads Fear About Current TZ’s Safety

Fears bridge will collapse
BY JANIE ROSMAN
Photo credit: Richie W
Photo credit: Richie W

Is the Tappan Zee Bridge safe? Absolutely, the Thruway Authority said.

No way, Manhattan construction attorney Barry B. LePatner contradicted. “I try never to go over it, except if somebody kidnaps me and drugs me,” LePatner told WCBS 880′s Wayne Cabot last January.

Fear of crossing grips him so tightly that, not counting the time he was hijacked, he said he crossed the three-mile span maybe twice in five years.

“In the last 20 years, the Tappan Zee Bridge has shown significant deterioration,” according to the Federal Highway Administration (September 2012).

“How have they been studying this for 15 or 20 years?” LePatner asked. “It’s is a larger version of the I-35W (Saint Anthony Falls) Bridge that collapsed (August 1, 2007) in Minnesota, or the I-5 Skagit Bridge.”

He directs skeptics to the website www.saveourbridges.com,whose interactive map lists dangerous crossings; the public is invited to notify him of additions. “There are 8,000 bridges ready to fall at a moment’s notice, and we are all imperiled,” LePatner said.Typing “Skagit River” into a search box yields a list of bridges, starting with the Interstate 5 at Skagit River Bridge in Washington State; it collapsed last May, sending one couple and their pickup and camper, and another man and his car, into the water.The Washington State DOT said the Skagit River Bridge was inspected twice last year, “once in August, once in November after it was struck by a vehicle.”The TZB carries nearly double that amount across three miles via seven lanes with a moveable barrier. I’d say it stood the test of time, since it was designed to carry 100,000 vehicles at its peak.

In addition to the Thruway Authority’s ongoing $2.1 billion highway and bridge Capital Program, a very stringent and thorough Bridge Inspection Program (Program), as mandated by current Federal and State guidelines, is followed.

Its receipt of a General Recommendation (GR) of 5 during the 2010 Biennial Inspection remained the same consistently for the past five years, since 2008, up from its GR of 4 in 2006. This means, according to the Thruway Authority, “Primary members and substructure are in good condition and do not need major repairs.”

Additionally, the Authority maintained, “No ‘red flags’ were reported as a result of the 2010 Biennial Inspection, meaning, there were no deficiencies requiring immediate response supporting the Authority’s position that the structural integrity of the Tappan Zee remains intact and safe for motorists.”

“People have heard my warnings and don’t take them seriously,” LePatner said, adding, “some people can’t avoid it (TZB), it’s their commute. We should all be holding our breaths until the replacement (bridge).” He also cited the Mianus River Bridge accident, where a section of the Connecticut Turnpike over the river collapsed on June 28, 1983, killing three people and injuring three others.

Nothing like that (Greenwich, CT) accident will happen with the new bridge, special project advisor Brian Conybeare assured at the December 19 Rockland Business Association meeting.

Its two parallel spans, to be built north of the current bridge, will have modern seismic reinforcement, four lanes each for general traffic, extra-wide shoulders for emergency vehicles, and turnaround lanes, plus a shared use (bicycle and pedestrian) path on the northern span, and highway-speed E-ZPass® lanes.

How does LePatner feel about its 100-year, structural-maintenance-free warranty?

Bridges today are made fabulously well, he acknowledged. “The question is, will there be adequate funding from day one to maintain the TZB? Unless you allocate and dedicate for maintenance and operation, in 20 years, it will be a horrible, rusted mess.”