What to Know
- Gov. Cuomo touted a long list of infrastructure projects at the opening ceremony for the new Tappan Zee Bridge
- He said the new bridge “is more than a structure, this bridge is a symbol" of a return to New York ingenuity
- The bridge will carry millions of people between Westchester and Rockland counties on a critical northeast U.S. transportation corridor
Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Tappan Zee Bridge a day before vehicles were to begin crossing the 3-mile-long span over the Hudson River — a feat the governor extolled as symbolizing a return to New York ingenuity.
Cuomo and a host of other dignitaries attended Thursday's ceremony for the bridge, which is being named after Cuomo's late father.
The Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge will carry more than 50 million vehicles a year across the river, from Manhattan commuters to truckers looking to skirt the traffic-choked city 25 miles to the south. It was begun by the Thruway Authority in 2013.
The first phase, carrying westbound traffic, starts Friday.
Cuomo hailed the beauty of the bridge and the speed at which it was constructed, and foresaw it as the forerunner to a series of infrastructure projects across New York State. He said he used to be afraid to cross the old Tappan Zee Bridge, which officials had described as dangerous for decades.
“We are leaving an old, dangerous, traumatizing bridge, and it’s replaced by a new, safer, smarter structure,” the governor said.
Cuomo said the new bridge “is more than a structure, this bridge is a symbol” after decades of under-investment in infrastructure. “We failed to build, we failed to push ourselves, we failed to embark on new ventures and we’re now paying the price for it,” he said.
He lamented the New York City subway system, which “has train cars that are 50 years old and that run on tracks that are 80 years old,” as well as Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, which were originally designed to handle one-quarter of the population they do today. “The LIRR was built in 1834, when Long Island was all potato fields,” he said.
Cuomo listed new projects that follow years of neglect, like the new LaGuardia Airport, which is the first new airport in the U.S. in 20 years. He named untertakings stretching from Rochester down to Long Island, including new LIRR tracks on Long Island and the new Moynihan train hall, so riders “never have to go in that pit called Penn Station again.”
“I believe our mojo is back,” he said, evoking the forward-thinking that built the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, the New York City subway system in 1904, the George Washington Bridge (then the world’s longest) in 1931, and the New York State Thruway in 1955, two years before President Eisenhower proposed the Federal Aid Highway Act.
The state has dedicated $2 billion from bank settlements and $1.6 billion from a federal loan to fund the project, according to Cuomo's office. But the Democratic governor said last month that tolls from the entire 570-mile Thruway system will help pay the bridge bills. He has also pledged that Thruway tolls will be frozen through 2020.