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Showtime: Sights, Scenes From New Tappan Zee Bridge Opening Ceremony

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with World War II vet Chick Gallela and Sleepy Hollow resident, who was at the Tappan Zee Bridge opening in 1955. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, left, with Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Rockland County Executive Ed Day at the new Tappan Zee Bridge special ceremony. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
Dignitaries at the new Tappan Zee Bridge ceremony. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
Piermont residents Laura Straus, right, and Sylvia Welch. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
Musical entertainment on the bridge. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
New Tappan Zee workers James Stach, left, Tommie Sturkey, middle, and Michael Rucano, right. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
Workers on the new Tappan Zee. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the new Tappan Zee ceremony. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
Pre-ceremony on the new Tappan Zee. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick

ON THE TAPPAN ZEE BRIDGE, N.Y. -- More than one reference was made to the fact that "someone was looking down and smiling" at the more than 800 dignitaries, union workers and residents from Rockland and Westchester gathered on the cable-stayed area of the first span of the new Tappan Zee Bridge on Thursday, Aug. 24.

"The Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge ... sounds good, doesn't it Matilda?" said Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey to the crowd and to Mario Cuomo's widow, Matilda in particular, who sat in the first row of the held-on-the-bridge ceremony, referencing the bridge's official name.

The special event was held to celebrate the opening of the first span of the new bridge which opens for Rockland-bound traffic at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, depending, said a spokesperson for the New York State Thruway Authority, on weather and the volume of traffic. Four lanes will be open.

For the next few months, northbound/westbound drivers on the New York State Thruway (I-87/I-287) will cross the Hudson River on the new bridge, while southbound/eastbound drivers will use the old bridge, each having four traffic lanes available. 

Later this fall, the new bridge will completely replace the 62-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge when four lanes of Westchester-bound traffic are also shifted onto the first span. The $5 toll is expected to stay the same, at least until 2020.

After all traffic has been shifted onto the first span, design-builder Tappan Zee Constructors will demolish the landings of the old bridge, which occupy the same footprint of the second span, and connect the second span to land. When completed, drivers will reap the full benefits of the new TZB's 3.1-mile twin-span, which will include:

  • Eight general traffic lanes;
  • Four breakdown and emergency lanes;
  • Space for future bus rapid transit and commuter rail;
  • A bicycle and walking path with six unique viewing areas;
  • Cashless tolling; and
  • Energy-efficient LED lighting.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened the morning ceremony by arriving via the Rockland side in a 1955 Corvette with Armando "Chick" Galella, a World War II veteran who drove the same model year Corvette as part of the inaugural procession that crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge on Dec. 15, 1955. 

The 96-year-old Sleepy Hollow resident is a veteran and Bronze Star recipient who survived the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Students from Nyack Middle and High School as well as students from Sleepy Hollow Middle and High were bused in for the event.

"We built this for you," Cuomo told them. "It has a 100-year guarantee. And it is our gift to you and your children."

It represents the future, he stressed. "This," he said gesturing to the old Tappan Zee, "is yesterday," and this, with a nod to where he stood mid-bridge, "Is today."

Dan Jentilucci of Somers said he couldn't agree more. "It's good to see change," he said. "And good to see New York moving forward. Seeing this today makes me proud to be a resident."

Added Laura Straus of Piermont who heads Rockland Culture: "I feel like a little kid being here, I'm so thrilled. And I definitely believe the bridge serves as a stronger link between Rockland and Westchester."

"The new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is much more than a magnificent, cutting-edge structure, it is a symbol for this state and this nation," said Cuomo.

"The opening of this new span shows the world that we have our energy and our boldness back, that we will continue to accomplish greats things, and that we are building bigger and better than we have in decades."

Much was made of the fact that the bridge was on deadline and on budget as the construction of its second span continues to progress.

The original Tappan Zee Bridge, linking Rockland and Westchester, opened in December 1955 and there are now more than 140,000 vehicles crossing it daily.

As the first cable-stayed bridge ever built across the Hudson River, the new bridge uses steel cables placed at an angle to connect the bridge deck to vertical towers that extend high above the roadway. 

The bridge features eight 419-foot towers standing at a five-degree angle, and has a total of 192 stay cables that would stretch 14 miles if laid end-to-end. More than 110,000 tons of all-American steel is being used to build the bridge, and approximately 7,000 people have contributed to the project to date, totaling nearly 9 million work hours.

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