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Floating Down The River: A New Tappan Zee Bridge

by Tim Blomquist

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Two hours north of the Tappan Zee Bridge, crews are putting together the huge steel beams that will help form the New NY Bridge. Over the next two years, plants in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia will ship over 100,000 tons of steel to the Tappan Zee Constructors site at the Port of Coeymans Marine Terminal 115 miles north of Nyack. The finished product will be shipped down the river to the New NY Bridge construction site. The first girder arrived on June 11.

Every aspect of the new bridge is huge and the welded plate girders are no exception. They vary in length from 60 to 120 feet weighing as much as 105 tons. If this steel work were laid end to end, it would stretch from Nyack past the Statue of Liberty. Each piece of steelwork will be fastened by large eight-inch high strength bolts, each of which is one inch in diameter.

The girders, painted blue for “top visual quality,” are put together in the assembly yard, placed on a barge, and shipped down stream to the TZB site construction site.

Tappan Zee Constructors project engineer Mike Hartranft says the curvature of the road deck will accommodate the bridge turnoff on the Rockland side and accommodate the built-in maintenance catwalks.

The lode bearing girders will play a key role connecting the bridge piers which will support the road decks and the traffic. “We’re functionally making many ‘small bridges’ that will go down to the bridge site, creating all of the approach structures for the new Tappan Zee Bridge,” said Hartranft. Crews will install smaller sections starting from both sides of the river working towards the middle of the river where larger pieces will be placed.

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The New NY Bridge is not the first bridge project for the Port of Coeymans facility. “We’ve done work previously on the Willis Avenue Bridge and  the 145th Street Bridge in Manhattan and the Bronx,” said Carver Laraway, port owner and president. “But the New NY Bridge is the ‘Mack Daddy’ of them all.”

Workers get a real sense of satisfaction when they see the finished product assembled and ready to ship down the river. “It really is a rewarding experience to come to work every day and see what we’ve been working on so diligently come alive,” said Hartranft.

The new north span of the $3.9 billion dollar Tappan Zee Bridge is on schedule to open in 2016. The traffic on the current bridge will be shifted to the new span, allowing crews to tear down the current TZB to make way for a second span. The project is expected to be completed in 2018.

Tim Blomquist is an English major at SUNY Geneseo.

Video/Photo Credit: Tappan Zee Constructors via NewNYBridge.com

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