On the day slated for the second try at opening the eastbound span of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration is being accused of offering the contractor enticements to make sure the opening took place before Thursday's Democratic primary, according to the New York Times.
Do you think the opening of the new Tappan Zee Bridge's second span was rushed for political reasons?
According to an internal document obtained by the New York Times, the enticements included the possibility of covering extra costs and reducing the bridge constructor's responsibility for any potential traffic accidents, said the Times.
First slated to open on late Friday, into early Saturday, the governor kicked off the event with a large celebration with dignitaries such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The event was just one of three large happening planned before the Thursday, Sept. 13, Democratic primary against Cynthia Nixon, including plans for a third track of the Long Island Rail Road and a new entrance to Penn Station.
Hours after the lavish celebration, workers signaled the alarm of a potentially dangerous situation on the old Tappan Zee Bridge which could threaten traffic on the new span.
Within hours of the news and the cancellation of the opening, Cuomo’s political opponents accused the governor of pushing ahead without regard to the public's safety, including Republican candidate, Marcus J. Molinaro, who called for a federal inquiry.
Cuomo and those working on the project denied offering incentives to speed up the timetable.
“We didn’t make the decision on the opening of the new span. The contractor did,” Cuomo said at a news conference on Sunday.
But according to the letter obtained by the Times, dated July 18, sent from Jamey Barbas, of the New York Thruway Authority, to Terry Towle, the president of Tappan Zee Constructors, the authority would absorb extra costs and absolve the contractor of responsibility for accidents, the Times said.
“The authority will not hold T.Z.C. responsible for any traffic incidents(s) or damage to the work that results from shifting traffic on the bridge while all elements are not fully complete as permitted by this letter,” the letter said.
In an interview with the Times, Barbas declined to say whether Cuomo’s office was directly involved. In a later statement, she said: “I did so without advising or in consultation with anyone in the governor’s office.”
TZC did not answer questions.
The bridge is set to open around 8 p.m. Tuesday, weather permitting.
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