TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The ribbon was cut Thursday morning to mark the first part of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, now named the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
But as CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not answer any questions about how much the tolls may go up in the future, nor about the controversy surrounding his naming the new span after his own father.
Gov. Cuomo and a host of other dignitaries attended the ceremony for the 3-mile long bridge, which took four years and $4 billion to build. Construction workers and high school students from Westchester and Rockland counties were on hand for the event.
“After 20 years of false starts, we are leaving an old, dangerous, traumatizing bridge and it’s replaced by a new, safer, smarter structure,” he said.”It was done well, it was done professionally and it was really done beautifully.”
Workers late Thursday were still putting the finishing touches on the span, but the highway signs are ready to direct the 140,000 vehicles a day expected on the new span.
Beginning Friday, night Rockland County-bound traffic will use the brand new lanes on the new bridge. Later this fall, the Westchester County-bound traffic will be on the other side of a safety divider.
While the media was kept on risers far from the podium, the governor on Thursday got into a 1955 Corvette, in honor of the year the original Tappan Zee Bridge was built. He drove off without taking any questions about the issues important to commuters – including how much it will cost to cross the bridge when a toll freeze ends in 2020.
“I think the tolls are going to be astronomical,” said Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. “I think it is really something that is going to put a dent in the economy here.”
Astorino, who ran against Cuomo for governor three years ago, wants a discount for local residents.
Others fear that without train service, the new bus rapid transit system for the bridge could get shortchanged.
“I’ve never been a big fan of the tolls being frozen,” said Veronica Vanterpool of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “In fact, what we want to make sure is that there is money applied to our new bus network.”
And then there is the bridge’s new name. Gone are the signs honoring former Gov. Malcolm Wilson and the historical words “Tappan Zee” – honoring the Native American Tappan tribe and early Dutch settlers – using the word “zee” meaning “sea.”
Instead, in a last-minute legislative move by the governor, it was renamed the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge for his late father.
“Mario Cuomo would be proud of what we have done today,” Gov. Cuomo said.
But Astorino said, “I think it should have stayed the Tappan Zee Bridge.”
And a poll by Reclaim New York shows nearly 80 percent of Rockland and Westchester County voters say they should have a say in the new name for the new span.
Officials said the first traffic on the new span will likely come sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning.
The entire bridge will open on June 15, Mario Cuomo’s birthday.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)