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Manhattan Construction Attorney: Tappan Zee Bridge Could Fall At Any Moment

The Tappan Zee Bridge is seen on Jun 27, 2008 (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

The Tappan Zee Bridge is seen on Jun 27, 2008 (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A race against time may describe efforts to replace the decrepit Tappan Zee Bridge with a brand new one.

At 58 years old, it is so structurally weak that, for a while, holes were opening up every couple of weeks in which you could see the river through the roadbed.

No one has been sounding an alarm louder than Manhattan construction attorney Barry Lepatner, who said in New York Magazine this week that of the thousands of dangerous bridges, the Tappan Zee is your “scary of scaries.”

What did he mean by that?

“Well, within the United States itself, there are nearly 8,000 bridges which I have identified in my book, “Too Big To Fall,” as bridges that could fall on a moment’s notice,” he told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot.

That includes, of course, the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Lepatner won’t use the bridge. He recommends going up river to the Bear Mountain Bridge or downriver to the George Washington Bridge.

“I try never to go over it, except if somebody kidnaps me and drugs me,” he said.

According to the New York State Thruway Authority, the bridge is in no immediate danger of falling down.

“I think they know better, but for public purposes, they seem to alway say that,” Lepatner said. “A bridge that is structurally deficient, which means there has been no maintenance dollars going in. That allowed it to become as dangerous as it is. And a bridge that is built as fracture-critical, which means there’s no redundancy and if on critical piece falls, the whole bridge goes straight down, is a danger to the travelling public.”

Lepatner said that was what happened to the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis in 2007, killing 13, and the Mianus River Bridge in Connecticut in 1983, killing three.

“This is not an isolated situation and it’s not something to be minimized by public officials,” he said.

He did say that the new bridge, construction of which is slated to start this year, will be satisfactory from a safety perspective, but he does not expect it to come in on budget or on schedule.