Mario Cuomo Bridge opens amid controversy

Posted: Updated:
SOUTH NYACK -

After a five-day delay, both sides of the new the Mario Cuomo Bridge are now open with all four lanes of the eastbound span open to traffic.

The first cars made their way onto the span just after 10 p.m. on Tuesday. Only one lane was open at first, causing traffic delays on the Thruway on the approach in Nyack. All four lanes were reported clear of traffic a little after 1 a.m.

The entire eastbound span was supposed to open last Saturday morning, but it was postponed after Tappan Zee Constructors discovered that the old Tappan Zee Bridge could collapse, potentially into the new span. After a review, TZ Constructors said if the old bridge does collapse, it would not affect the integrity of the new span.

Some, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo's political rivals, said the opening was rushed and that Cuomo wanted the grand opening ceremony to happen before the Democratic gubernatorial primary on Thursday.

Cuomo has said he had no role in the timing of the bridge's opening.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that a Thruway Authority official wrote to contractors in July directing that work on the eastbound span be completed so the bridge could fully open Aug. 24. The official offered to absolve contractors of responsibility for accidents that might occur while work continued as traffic moved across the span. The report says the Cuomo administration offered enticements to the builders of the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to open the structure's second span in August, ahead of this week's Democratic primary.

Jamey Barbas, project director for the new bridge project, denies there was a political component to the opening. “The contract completion date of August 15 was extended ten days to August 25 due to severe weather delays. The letter does not suggest incentives, or absolve TZC of liability for traffic incidents – rather, we were attempting to assist TZC in meeting its contractual deadline by allowing them to finish ancillary and nonessential work while the lanes were open to traffic. That work would never have compromised traffic safety and at the end of the day the suggestions to help the contractor were unnecessary and no costs were expended by the Authority as the span was completed in full on September 7 as proposed by the contractor.”

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