Tappan Zee Bridge (1955-2017)
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Tappan Zee Bridge 1955%E2%80%932017
Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge
The Tappan Zee Bridge as seen in Tarrytown, New York
Carries7 lanes (3 northbound/westbound, 3 southbound/eastbound, 1 reversible) of / /
CrossesHudson River
LocaleConnecting Grand View-on-Hudson, Rockland County, New York and Tarrytown, Westchester County, New York in the Lower Hudson Valley
Official nameGovernor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge
Maintained byNew York State Thruway Authority
DesignCantilever bridge
Total length16,013 feet (4,881 m; 3 mi)
Width90 feet (27 m)
Longest span1,212 feet (369 m)
Clearance below138 feet (42 m)
OpenedDecember 14, 1955
ClosedOctober 6, 2017
Replaced byNew Tappan Zee Bridge
Daily traffic134,947 (2010)[1]

The Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, more commonly known as the Tappan Zee Bridge, was a cantilever bridge in the U.S. state of New York. It was built from 1952 to 1955 to cross the Hudson River at one of its widest points, 25 miles (40 km) north of Midtown Manhattan, from Grand View-on-Hudson to Tarrytown. As an integral conduit within the New York Metropolitan Area, the bridge connected South Nyack in Rockland County with Tarrytown in Westchester County in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Opened on December 14, 1955, the bridge was one of the primary crossings of the Hudson River north of New York City; it carried much of the traffic between southern New England and points west of the Hudson. The Tappan Zee, as well as its replacement, was the longest bridge in New York State. The total length of the bridge approached 16,013 feet (3.0328 mi; 4,881 m). The cantilever span was 1,212 feet (369 m), which provided a maximum clearance of 138 feet (42 m) over the water.[2]

The bridge was part of the New York State Thruway mainline and carried the highway concurrency of Interstate 87 and Interstate 287. The span carried seven lanes of motor traffic. The center lane was able to be switched between eastbound and westbound traffic depending on the prevalent commuter direction; on weekdays the center lane was eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening. The switch was accomplished via a movable center barrier which was moved by a pair of barrier transfer machines. Even with the switchable lane, traffic was frequently very slow.

In 2013, federal and state authorities started constructing a replacement bridge, the New Tappan Zee Bridge, at a cost of at least $4 billion. All traffic was shifted to the new bridge on October 6, 2017, and demolition of the old bridge began soon afterward.


The Tappan Zee is named for an American Indian tribe from the area called "Tappan"; and zee being the Dutch word for "sea".[3]


Tappan Zee Bridge toll plaza, 1973

With the increasing demands for commuter travel taxing the existing bridges and tunnels, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had plans in 1950 to construct a bridge across the Hudson near Dobbs Ferry, New York. The proposal was overridden by New York State Governor Thomas E. Dewey, who wanted to construct a bridge to connect the New York State Thruway across Westchester to the New England Thruway. The Port Authority promised its bondholders that it would not allow any other entity to construct a river crossing within its jurisdiction, which reached to a point one mile (1.6 km) south of Nyack on the western shore of the Hudson River and across to Tarrytown[4] on the eastern shore. The bridge was built on a very tight budget of $81 million (1950 dollars), or $796 million in 2014 dollars.[5]

A May 10, 1950 editorial in The New York Times suggested that a site in southern Dobbs Ferry or northern Hastings-on-Hudson, where the Hudson narrowed considerably from its three-mile (5 km) width at Tappan Zee, would be a more appropriate site, and suggested that Governor Dewey work with his counterpart, Governor of New Jersey Alfred E. Driscoll, to craft a compromise that would offer Thruway customers a discounted bridge fare at a more southerly crossing.[6] Two days later, Governor Dewey announced that the Port Authority had dropped its plans to construct a bridge of its own, and that the bridge's location would be close to the Tarrytown-Nyack line, just outside the Port Authority's jurisdiction. Dewey stated that World War II military technology would be used in the bridge's construction.[7]

The site of the bridge, at the Hudson River's second-widest point, added to construction costs. The site was chosen to be as close as possible to New York City, while staying out of the 25-mile (40 km) range of the Port Authority's influence, thus ensuring that revenue from collected tolls would go to the newly created New York State Thruway Authority, and not the Port Authority.[8][9][10] A unique aspect of the design of the bridge is that the main span is supported by eight hollow concrete caissons. Their buoyancy supports some of the loads and helps reduce costs.[11]

The bridge was designed by Emil Praeger of the Madigan-Hyland engineering firm. Captain Praeger helped develop floating caissons during World War II when the Allied forces needed to create and protect portable harbors for the 1944 invasion of Normandy.[12]

Construction started in March 1952 and the bridge opened to traffic on December 15, 1955, along with a 27-mile (43 km) long section of the New York State Thruway from Suffern to Yonkers.[13][14] New York State Governor W. Averell Harriman signed a bill on February 28, 1956, to officially name the structure the Tappan Zee Bridge.[15] In 1994, the name of Malcolm Wilson was added to the bridge's name upon the 20th anniversary of his leaving the governor's office in December 1974, though it is almost never used when the bridge is spoken about colloquially.[16]

Originally, tolls were collected in both directions. In August 1970, the toll was abolished for westbound drivers, and at the same time, eastbound drivers saw their tolls doubled. The tolls of eleven other New York-New Jersey and Hudson River crossings along a 130-mile (210 km) stretch, from the Outerbridge Crossing in the south to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in the north, were also changed to eastbound-only at that time.[17]

Replacement bridge

The superstructure, which was constructed during a period of material shortages during the Korean War
The new Tappan Zee Bridge being constructed next to the original
Dismantling of the original bridge

Since the end of the 20th century, calls to replace the aging Tappan Zee Bridge had gone unanswered. The deteriorating structure bore an average of 138,000 vehicles per day by the end of its life, substantially more traffic than its designed capacity. Unlike other major bridges in metropolitan New York, the Tappan Zee was designed to last only 50 years due to material shortages during the Korean War at the time of its construction.[18] In total, the bridge was open for 61 years, 9 months, and 21 days. The new bridge is intended to last at least 100 years without any major repairs.[19]

The collapse of Minnesota's I-35W Mississippi River bridge in 2007 raised worries about the Tappan Zee's structural integrity.[20] These concerns, together with traffic overcapacity and increased maintenance costs, escalated the serious discussions already ongoing about replacing the Tappan Zee with a tunnel or a new bridge.[21][22] Six options were identified and submitted for project study and environmental review.[23]

In 2009, the Tappan Zee Bridge was featured on The History Channel "The Crumbling of America" showing the infrastructure crisis in the United States.[24] Many factors contribute to the precarious infrastructure of the bridge, which has been called "one of the most decrepit and potentially dangerous bridges" in the U.S.[25] Engineering assessments have determined that "everything from steel corrosion to earthquakes to maritime accidents could cause major, perhaps catastrophic, damage to the span," prompting one of the top aides in the New York state governor's office to refer to the Tappan Zee as the "hold-your-breath bridge."[25] A 2009 state report noted that the bridge was not built with a plan that was "conducive to long-term durability" and that the Tappan Zee's engineers designed it to be "nonredundant," meaning that one "critical fracture could make the bridge fail completely because its supports couldn't transfer the structure's load to other supports."[26]

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) studied the feasibility of either including a rail line across the new bridge or building the new bridge so a new rail line can be installed at a future date. Commuter rail service west of the bridge in Rockland County is limited, and the MTA studied expansion possibilities in Rockland County that would use the new bridge to connect with Metro-North's Hudson Line on the east side of the bridge along the Hudson River for direct service into Manhattan. On September 26, 2008, New York state officials announced their plan to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge with a new bridge that included commuter-train tracks and lanes for high-speed buses. The bridge was estimated to cost $6.4 billion, while adding bus lanes from Suffern to Port Chester was estimated to cost an additional $2.9 billion. Adding a rail line from the Suffern Metro-North station and across the bridge, connecting with Metro-North's Hudson Line south of Tarrytown, would have added another $6.7 billion. The plan was reviewed for its environmental impacts.[27]

In 2013, the New York State Thruway Authority began building the New Tappan Zee Bridge, a double-span bridge (four lanes per span in opposite directions) with designated bus lanes, to the north of the old bridge.[28][29] Construction began as scheduled during 2013, with completion projected for 2017.[30]

The northbound/westbound span opened on August 25, 2017.[31][32] Southbound/eastbound traffic remained on the old span until October 6, 2017, when it was temporarily shifted to the newer northbound/westbound span.[33] The old bridge was subsequently decommissioned.[34][35] The replacement bridge project was expected to be completed by June 15, 2018[36] at a cost of $3.98 billion.[37] After some delays, it was announced that the new southbound/eastbound span would open to traffic on September 8, 2018.[38][39] However, the opening of the new eastbound span was delayed when a piece of the old bridge came loose on September 7 while being demolished. The eastbound span, which was 160 feet (49 m) away from the old bridge, remained closed until the old bridge could be stabilized.[40]

The old bridge was then demolished in piecemeal fashion in order to minimize impacts on the Hudson River's wildlife and marine traffic.[41] 135 deck panels that were assembled onto the old bridge recently as part of emergency repairs would be sold to local governments for a dollar each so that local governments can build new bridges.[42] Other parts of the old bridge would be sunk off the Atlantic Ocean coast as part of New York State's artificial reef program.[43] In May 2018, the state government began sinking parts of the old bridge to make 12 artificial reefs.[44]

Suicide prevention

The Tappan Zee Bridge as seen from a train on the eastern shore of the Hudson River

From 1998 to 2008, more than 25 people committed suicide on the Tappan Zee Bridge, according to the New York State Thruway Authority.[45]

On August 31, 2007, NYSTA officials added four phones - two each on the Rockland and Westchester sides - that connect callers via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline crisis hotline to counselors at LifeNet or Covenant House.[46] Signs reading "Life is Worth Living" and "When it seems like there is no hope, there is help" have been placed on the bridge.[47] Suicide fencing and traffic cameras have also been installed along the bridge, and bridge staff have been trained in suicide prevention.[48] On October 14, 2012, Newsday reported that the Tappan Zee Bridge was called the Golden Gate Bridge of the East and that the "new Tappan Zee, which is in the works, will include fencing designed to thwart jumpers."[49]

The most famous and notorious suicides on the Tappan Zee Bridge are those of Scott Douglas on December 31, 1993 - after murdering his wife, newspaper heiress Anne Scripps - and of Douglas's stepdaughter Anne Morrell Petrillo, who jumped to her death on September 24, 2009.[50] A US military employee jumped from the bridge to her death in 2010.[51]

See also


  1. ^ "2010 Traffic Data Report for New York State" (PDF). New York State Department of Transportation. Appendix C. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "Tappan Zee Bridge 1955: Best, Longest, Safest". nyacknewsandviews. Retrieved 2013.
  3. ^ Melvin, Tessa (August 21, 1994). "If You're Thinking of Living in Tarrytown; Rich History, Picturesque River Setting". The New York Times. Retrieved . The Dutch called this point, the river's widest, the Tappan Zee - Tappan probably for a group of Indians and Zee meaning "sea" in Dutch.
  4. ^ Ingraham, Joseph C. (May 7, 1950). "Port Bridge Plan Blocked by Dewey; Peril to Thruway Is Seen in Project at Dobbs Ferry for Link with Jersey Roads". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved .
  5. ^ "CPI Inflation Calculator". bls.gov. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 2014.
  6. ^ "That Thruway Bridge". The New York Times. May 10, 1952. p. 1. Retrieved .
  7. ^ Ingraham, Joseph C. (May 12, 1950). "Port Body Gives In on Thruway Span; Accedes to Dewey's Orders and Will Let the Bridge Be Built Wherever His Engineers Say". The New York Times. p. 29. Retrieved .
  8. ^ Brenner, Elsa (April 30, 2000). "Future of Bridge Stirs Bicounty Cooperation". The New York Times. Retrieved . The site was selected to be as close to New York City as possible while escaping the 25-mile jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which apparently opposed the bridge because it would compete with the authority's own crossings.
  9. ^ Chen, David W. (January 30, 2000). "Ideas & Trends: A Bridge Too Long; The Cost of Urban Sprawl: Unplanned Obsolescence". The New York Times. Retrieved . And because it is so long - built at the Hudson's widest point to escape the 25-mile jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - it is unusually expensive to maintain, repair and, if necessary, replace.
  10. ^ Kestenbaum, David (August 19, 2011). "A Big Bridge In The Wrong Place". National Public Radio. Retrieved .
  11. ^ Guide to Civil Engineering Projects In and Around New York City (2nd ed.). Metropolitan Section, American Society of Civil Engineers. 2009. p. 41.
  12. ^ Plotch, Philip Mark. Politics Across the Hudson: The Tappan Zee Megaproject. Rutgers University Press, New Jersey (2015). p. 13
  13. ^ "Thruway Fact Book" (PDF). New York State Thruway Authority. Retrieved .
  14. ^ "The Thruway Bridge Opens". The New York Times. December 15, 1955. p. 36. Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Tappan Zee Is Official; Governor Signs Bill Naming the Thruway Bridge". New York Times. February 29, 1956. p. 22. Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Mario Just Might Have Been Easier". The New York Times. January 13, 1994. Retrieved .
  17. ^ Moran, Nancy (August 13, 1970). "One-Way Tolls Confusing Some Drivers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ McGeehan, Patrick (January 17, 2006). "A Bridge That Has Nowhere Left to Go". The New York Times. Retrieved .
  19. ^ "NY proposes steep toll increases for new Tappan Zee bridge". Reuters. 4 August 2012. Some alternatives to the Tappan Zee bridge are already more expensive. The George Washington Bridge, which crosses the Hudson River south of the Tappan Zee, has a cash toll of US$12, which is expected to rise to $15 in 2015.
  20. ^ "Tappan Zee Bridge has received 'poor' ratings". Poughkeepsie Journal. Gannett News Service. August 3, 2007. Retrieved .
  21. ^ Thruway Authority; MTA Metro-North Railroad (June 2003). "Long List of Level 1 Alternatives". Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement. New York State. Retrieved 2011.
  22. ^ Zhao, Yilu (24 July 2003). "From 156 Options, Down to 15 Ways to Go on Tappan Zee". New York Times. Retrieved 2011.
  23. ^ Dept of Transportation; Thruway Authority; MTA Metro-North Railroad (January 2006). "Alternatives Analysis Report, Level 2". Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement. New York State. Retrieved 2011.
  24. ^ "Legislator Day to Appear on History Channel Modern Marvel Series" (PDF) (Press release). June 17, 2009. Retrieved .
  25. ^ a b "Falling Down". New York Magazine. January 27, 2013. Retrieved .
  26. ^ "The Tappan Zee Is Falling Down". City Journal. 21 (2). 2011. Retrieved .
  27. ^ Neuman, William (September 26, 2008). "State to Replace, Not Rebuild, Tappan Zee Bridge". The New York Times. Retrieved .
  28. ^ Khurram Saeed and Theresa Juva-Brown (2012-12-17). "It's official: State picks builder for new Tappan Zee Bridge". 2012 www.lohud.com. Retrieved .
  29. ^ US Federal Highway Administration (October 13, 2011). "Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project Scoping Information Packet" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 30, 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  30. ^ Haughney, Christine (October 11, 2011). "U.S. Says It Will Expedite Approval to Replace Deteriorating Tappan Zee Bridge". New York Times. Retrieved 2011. The state will pay for the project by issuing $3 billion in bonds against its toll revenues; the remaining $2.2 billion will be financed with loans from labor pension funds and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
  31. ^ "Opening day on new Tappan Zee Bridge shows sleek design, new features". Retrieved 2017.
  32. ^ "Watch drone video of New York's new Tappan Zee Bridge". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017.
  33. ^ "Rockland-bound traffic to begin traveling on new Tappan Zee Bridge". ABC7 New York. August 25, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  34. ^ Berger, Joseph (June 1, 2017). "A Few Months Before Its Official Opening, Tappan Zee Bridge Is Drivable". The New York Times. Retrieved .
  35. ^ "Mario Cuomo Bridge: Westchester-bound traffic to shift onto new bridge Oct. 6". lohud.com. Retrieved .
  36. ^ DeWitt, Scott Willis, Karen. "Gov. Cuomo Opens Thruway Bridge Across the Hudson Amid Questions About Tolls".
  37. ^ "About". The New NY Bridge Project. October 12, 2015. Retrieved 2016.
  38. ^ "Cuomo Bridge second span will open Saturday, enhanced bus service to start Oct. 29". lohud.com. September 4, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ "Here's New Tappan Zee Bridge Traffic Shift Info, Timing For Second Span Opening". Greenburgh Daily Voice. January 27, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  40. ^ "'Potentially Dangerous Situation' on Tappan Zee Delays Opening of New Cuomo Bridge Span". The New York Times. 2018-09-08. Retrieved .
  41. ^ Berger, Joseph (2017-12-25). "The End for the Tappan Zee Bridge Comes in Pieces, Not With a Boom". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved .
  42. ^ Berger, Joseph (December 25, 2017). "The End for the Tappan Zee Bridge Comes in Pieces, Not With a Boom". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  43. ^ Hu, Winnie (April 29, 2018). "Old Tappan Zee Bridge Gets New Life as Artificial Reef". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018.
  44. ^ "'Potentially Dangerous Situation' on Tappan Zee Delays Opening of New Cuomo Bridge Span". The New York Times. 2018-09-08. Retrieved .
  45. ^ "Authorities Put Anti-Suicide Phones on TZ Bridge". WCBS-TV. August 29, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-12-22. Retrieved .
  46. ^ Shamburger, Merideth. "Naked Couple Who Jumped From T Z Bridge Identified". The Rivertowns Daily Voice. Retrieved 2012.
  47. ^ Lombardi, Kate Stone (May 11, 2008). "Struggling to Prevent Suicides at Tappan Zee". The New York Times. Retrieved .
  48. ^ Merideth Shamburger, Redmond Zmudzien. "Family Members Tried to Stop Bridge Jumper". The Tarrytown Daily Voice. Retrieved 2012.
  49. ^ O'Connor, Timothy (14 October 2012). "High anxiety: Trooper fights fear to save would-be Tappan Zee jumpers". Newsday. Retrieved 2012.
  50. ^ Berger, Joseph; Schweber, Nate (September 27, 2009). "As Body Is Found, Efforts to Make Sense of a Loss". The New York Times. Retrieved .
  51. ^ Ryser, RobI'm; Liebson, Richard; Howard, Brian (June 10, 2010). "Army pvt. bound for Hood jumps from NY bridge". The Journal News. Westchester, NY. Retrieved .

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