NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that part of the new Tappan Zee Bridge will open to traffic August 25.
Construction started about four years ago, but talk of replacing the 67-year-old bridge started about 20 years ago.
While technically eight months behind the original schedule, Cuomo said the project is proof New York State can get big things done.
“When we talk about the cynicism of government, that’s part of it,” he said Thursday. “We’re going to do this, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this and then they never do anything. And then you question the capacity of government.”
The first of two new 3.1 mile long bridges over the Hudson River is set to open before Labor Day.
Phyllis Federico lives in the Quay Condos right next to the Tappan Zee in Tarrytown. She’s hoping the new bridge will help cut down on the notoriously nasty gridlock.
“It’s cool! Yeah, are you kidding? They’re going to have all those lights and everything, I think it’s great. I think it looks like a huge sail ship, I like it,” she told CBS2’s Brian Conybeare.
The Rockland-bound span will open first. The Westchester-bound lanes will open next year.
On Friday August 25, the Rockland-bound lanes will be closed temporarily and the westbound traffic will be shifted to the first new span. Later this fall, the Westchester-bound traffic will be moved over to the same bridge until next year.
At 96 feet, the first new bridge is actually wider than the existing Tappan Zee and will have four lanes in each direction, temporarily with a divider. Then, once the landings of the old bridge are torn down, the pre-built second span will be connected to the highway in the same spot.
Traffic will then be separated and each new span will have four lanes, plus space for breakdown, emergency and bus lanes, and even a bike and pedestrian path.
Cuomo says the current tolling prices will stay in place through 2020.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day said he appreciates the Thruway Authority has frozen tolls until 2020, but worries residents and businesses will have to pay for the $3.9 billion project eventually, and higher tolls could make some drivers avoid Rockland.
“The biggest concern about the bridge really frankly is the tolls,” he said. “As important the hit on the economy that we could take in sales tax revenues going down.”
Cuomo admitted tolls will go up across the entire New York thruway system in 2020 — two years after the next election for governor.
“It’s a nice looking bridge. It’s going to come with a nice looking price tag too,” one man said.
Last month, New York’s legislature approved renaming the $4 billion bridge after Cuomo’s late father.
The new bridge is called the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.