The Super Mario Bridge
by John Delach
In March of 2012 I included the following excerpt in my piece entitled, “How We Name Things:”
A new bridge is being built across the Hudson River to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. Its name appears up for grabs. Some pundits are petitioning that it be named after Pete Seeger in recognition of his work in cleaning up the Hudson River. A couple of problems with that. Ole Pete, despite his talents, was a member of the Communist Party and a life-long apologist for the Workers’ Paradise. Also, the existing bridge has already been christened with a politician’s name. It is the Malcolm Wilson-Tappan Zee Bridge named after Nelson Rockefeller’s lieutenant governor who became governor when Rocky became Gerald Ford’s VP. Alas Malcolm only lasted a year losing to the same Hugh Carey of tunnel fame.
But most importantly, if the new bridge is to receive a new name, it’s my bet that Andy Cuomo will name it after his papa, Mario.
All hail Delach for getting this right and all hail the new Super Mario Bridge. Traffic began to roll over a portion of this $4 billion project early on Saturday morning, August 25. When completed next year the bridge will have two separate spans each able to accommodate four lanes of traffic and two breakdown lanes. One will also support a bike lane and the other a pedestrian walkway. The part of the 3.1-mile bridge that crosses over the Hudson’s shipping channel is a cable-stayed design with the supporting cables anchored to the tops of the angled central reinforced concrete towers. Each span has four of these towers that artfully soar high above the spans in sharp contrast to the appearance of the old Tappan Zee, a worn-out erector set cantilevered bridge.
These spans have a curious reason for being located between Tarrytown and Nyack, New York. Its purpose was to connect the New York State Thruway (I-87) with roads leading to Manhattan.
Then Governor Thomas Dewey and Robert Moses (RM) didn’t want their thruway to enter New Jersey. If it did, the new bridge would belong to the Port Authority of NY and NJ whose charter gives it sole responsibility for all bridges and tunnels between these two states.
Construction began in 1952 during the height of the Korean War when steel was scarce and expensive. RM decided to build it on the cheap. Although the main steel truss span was built to code, the long low viaduct of almost 2.5 miles that took the span to Nyack was built on a wing and a prayer. Instead of using concrete and steel pilings to support the roadway, RM opted for wooden pilings. When it opened in 1955, the bad news was its realistic life-expectancy was 50 years, but RM brought it in at $81 million ($361 million in today’s dollars.)
Albany politicians began playing kick the can down the road as the sands ran out and 2005 came knocking on the door. They funded one band aide after another to keep the aging structure safe, all the while crossing their fingers that when the rent came due, it would be some other politican’s problem. They ignored the rotting those awful worms made as they made meals out of the wooden pilings. George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson ducked the bullet and kicked the problem down the road. Enter the second coming of a Cuomo, son Andrew:
You don’t always get what you want but it seems sometimes, you get what you need.
Andrew Cuomo loves engineering and infrastructure, the bigger and more expensive, the better. In 2013, he performed a modern razzle-dazzle routine to fund this project: he beat off environmentalists, activists, lobbyists and s*** kickers all the while sucking up to the unions, the Feds the NYS legislature and other special interests needed to start work on the new bridge.
Andy boy did it. He took the bull by the horns and cast the beast aside and we are on our way to having an outstanding new bridge. Robert Moses, master builder and master of the razzle-dazzle would have been proud. Andy deserves using his power as the Gov. to name it after his dad.
Sure, $4 billion is a tough number to swallow, but did you know, Bob and Ray that…” it came in $1 billion under what the state feared it would cost.”
This money will also come due in good time. Cuomo anted-up and bet on the future. Yes, he kicked another can with a nut of $2 billion down the road. But he must have learned from RM: Build it first and answer questions later.
Hoorah for the Super Mario Bridge and Andy boy who utilized his inner Robert Moses to pull it off.