Governor Cuomo: "But it was the project that could never happen because it was too ambitious, it was too difficult, there were too many obstacles, potential litigation, it was too expensive. And we said no we're actually going to get it done. And not only did we get it done, we got it done in four years, on time, under budget."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo toured the lowering of the final span of the retired Tappan Zee Bridge.
AUDIO of today's event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you all for taking the time to come out. The final milestone for what has been one of the really great projects to be part of. This bridge was the largest infrastructure project in the United States of America when we started. This bridge, if you are a New Yorker you've heard about this bridge for 20 years, they talked about replacing the old Tappan Zee Bridge and how dangerous it was. If you ever drove over the old Tappan Zee Bridge you knew how dangerous it was and the lack of structural integrity. They used to have these steel plates that you drove over and as you went over the plate it would jump just a little bit - it sent a chill right through your body.
But it was the project that could never happen because it was too ambitious, it was too difficult, there were too many obstacles, potential litigation, it was too expensive. And we said no we're actually going to get it done. And not only did we get it done, we got it done in four years, on time, under budget. The original budget was $5 billion, it actually will have come in at about $3.9 billion. It was done under a methodology called design-build, which means you let the private sector design the majority of the project and then build it and they are responsible for it, they get an incentive for early delivery, they get a disincentive for late delivery.
And we have the Commissioners with us here because there's a lesson for everybody who's been in public service and government. I want to congratulate Matt Driscoll from the Thruway Authority and Jamey Barbas who's the actual project manager. None of it was easy, none of it was easy. Everything was hard. I said to the Commissioners earlier, it was like whack-a-mole, every day you wake up and there's another problem. The weather's no good, the we found this kind of geological composition which we didn't expect, the contractor ran into this, the local community is concerned about this. But, it's about demanding performance of yourself and of the organization and then dealing with obstacle, after obstacle, after obstacle.
Now, even after opening the new bridge, the obstacles continued, which was taking down the old bridge, which sounded relatively simple. The old bridge became the property of the contractor, Tappan Zee contractors. So the state no longer owned the old bridge, but obviously we had an interest in how it came down and when it came down. The main span of the bridge came down relatively without event. And it was lowered onto a barge, it was taken away. Part of the old bridge—main span—became part of the artificial reefs that we're building off Long Island.
We then had a problem with this span—the span to my right from this direction, which they call the east anchor span, where it was so unstable and so rusted and so lacking structural integrity that they didn't want to put workers on the bridge to do the work of dismantling it. So then we just had the span standing. There was even some fear that it could fall. There was some fear that it could fall and possibly effect the new bridge, so then we had to scramble and do all sorts of engineering. And that span—the east span—was brought down by an accelerating felling. Basically they exploded the columns holding it up so that it fell and it fell away from the new bridge. That is—you'll see the top of that span coming out of the water. They're going to be removing that or start to remove that later this week. So that's going to be lifted out of the water and that's going to be placed on barges and taken away. That then leaves—you can see on that span where it was cut to control where it fell. So that was exciting. Not really exciting—that was sort of nerve-wracking.
That then leaves what's called the west anchor span, which as you see is held on these four columns. On this span, they were able to put workers on to actually cut it free and the plan on this span is to cut it and then lower it down onto barges. They'll move it away several miles and then they will dismantle this span and take it away in pieces. So this is being lowered literally as we speak. I'll let Jamey and Matt tell you some of the details of that process, but obviously it's a major engineering feat to lower such a large structure.
The eastern span is going to be lifted out of the water; it's now sitting at the bottom of the riverbed. That will be lifted and taken away, and then that will be, in many ways, the final chapter in what has been a very challenging story, but also a fulfilling story. Again, the largest infrastructure project in the United States of America at a time when a lot of people believed government just couldn't do big things anymore. Government didn't have the confidence, people didn't trust government enough to do it and we're afraid that government projects were all destined to be late and over budget, as if that was written in the bible, because they got what government has done and how powerful we are as New Yorkers. You look south and you see the Manhattan skyline, you think of all the bridges one longer than the next: George Washington Bridge, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the tunnels, the Subway—we built great, great projects and those projects made New York, New York. And we can't lose that ambition, and you can't lose that vision, and you can't lose that confidence otherwise we're not New York.
And this bridge to me is a testament to our capacity. So when they tell you, you can't, you say go take a ride over the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. It would make my father very proud. He believed in New York, he believed in New Yorkers, he believed in our potential when we are at our best and that's what this bridge is; it's a physical manifestation of when people say no you can't, you say yes we can; we're the great State of New York. And it's beautiful. With that, I'll hand it over to Jamey Barbas and Matt Driscoll who will talk to you about the specifics and will take any questions you have.