2011-10-19 / Editorials

Tappan Zee Bridge Reconstruction Is Good News

Last week we received the happy news that reconstruction of the 55-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge, which spans the Hudson River at a point some 25 miles north of New York City, connecting Westchester and Rockland Counties, was among 14 projects selected for expedited federal review and approval. Work on the bridge could begin as early as spring of 2013.

At first glance, it would seem that we are taking delight in a project concerning a structure that has very little to do with the great majority of our readers, who live and work in, and most of whose interests center around, the borough of Queens. We beg to differ. As the greater New York City area, of which Queens is definitely a part, grows and expands northward, we do not think we are incorrect in postulating that a good number of our readers find themselves using the Tappan Zee several times a year, if not in a given month. If we were to conduct a poll, we are sure that we would find a good number of people who call Queens their home, but who in the course of their work travel to localities on the west side of the Hudson and use the Tappan Zee to reach their destinations. Reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge will make life easier for them and for many others.

The Tappan Zee Bridge project will do more than facilitate trans-Hudson travel. The federal Department of Transportation agreed to help speed up the process for New York state to build a $5.2 billion, eight-lane bridge to which mass transit could be added in the future if the need arises. (The span now in existence has seven lanes; on weekdays the center lane is eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening, a switch is accomplished via a center barrier moved by a pair of barrier transfer machines). Thousands of jobs for ironworkers, masons, sandhogs, electricians and those who work in other building trades will open up. A deputy secretary with the federal Department of Transportation estimated that 33,000 “job years” (one job lasting one year; one job lasting two years is considered two job years) would be generated by the Tappan Zee Bridge construction project. Many of the workers who would be hired for the project now live in Queens. Ask any of them if a 25-mile, one-way commute to a workplace would be too great a burden for a job that would guarantee at least a year of steady paychecks. We are certain we know what the answer would be.

The Tappan Zee Bridge, on which construction was begun in March 1952 and completed and the bridge opened in December 1955, came into existence during a period of material shortages during the Korean War. It was designed to last only 50 years. It carries far more traffic than it was originally constructed to bear. Concerns about the structural integrity of the bridge were renewed after the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minnesota on Aug. 1, 2007 and led to announcements in September 2008 by New York state officials of plans to replace the span. It would appear that with federal help, those plans will now come to fruition.

The two primary duties of government are the preserving of public safety and maintaining the infrastructure. We hail the Tappan Zee Bridge project, which will combine those two governmental responsibilities and put thousands of our neighbors and readers to work as well. We look forward to construction beginning soon.

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