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Mario Cuomo Bridge

As Other See Us: City Journal on the TZB

by Dave Zornow

If you are a fan of Lower Hudson history or the bridge that links Rockland and Westchester, “The Tappan Zee Is Falling Down” at is a must read. It includes a detailed and not particularly flattering description of 1950’s NYS politics prior to bridge construction.

The Tappan Zee was one of the last bridges to arise under a vanished American way of doing things: build stuff first, ask questions later. In the spring of 1950, Governor Thomas Dewey decided that the 535-mile New York State Thruway that he was laying down would include a three-mile bridge from Rockland, just north of New Jersey, into Westchester, where people could drive on to New York City.

There are at least a couple of points in the story worthy of head scratches.

  • “The Tappan Zee is a disaster in slow motion. Absent ceaseless repairs and ever-vigilant inspectors, it could collapse,” writes business journalist Nicole Gelinas. Technically she’s correct — in the same way you can claim that without spending over $100 to fill your tank your car will eventually stop altogether. She’s right to say that without maintenance the bridge will collapse — but that’s not the point. The justification for replacing the bridge is that the millions it costs each year to maintain the TZB could be better invested in a replacement that offers longer life, added mass transit options, a recreational path and an improved design to address security and natural disaster shortcomings in the current bridge.
  • “The Tappan Zee exemplifies the state of America’s infrastructure in 2011. We rely on it more than ever: each year, 51 million cars, trucks, and buses traverse the seven-lane ‘Tap,’ as locals call it.” Although I’ve only lived in Nyack for five years, I’ve never met anyone who has called the TZB “The Tap.” I can only assume this is a Westchester or NYC thing.
  • “State lawmakers have an additional excuse to avoid building: that a new bridge would cost too much. But that isn’t true.” Gelinas reasons that because NYS ranks 4th in the nation for per capita personal income, we can afford the $16B required to replace the TZB. But it hasn’t happened because 1) we choose to spend the money on other things like education and 2) no politician has championed the bridge because it is unlikely to benefit their political career.

Read the whole story — and see a rare Getty Images photo of the Hudson during TZB construction at  “The Tappan Zee Is Falling Down” at

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