A Warm Farewell to the Old Tappan Zee Bridge

Past meets present on the Tappan Zee Historical Bridge Tour.


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Tappan Zee Bridge prior to December 15, 1955, opening day.

Photo courtesy of the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA)

 

Hastings-on-Hudson resident Sheila Moore was a child when her parents moved to Tarrytown in 1962. She recalls playing with her friends in nearby woods “but then we found a hole in the fence.

“We’d go down the hill, across the tracks and under the bridge and go swimming,” says Moore, grinning. “We were river rats!” Her father was the superintendent at 300 S. Broadway and across the street from a vacant lot, where 303 S. Broadway is now. “We used to climb up on the roof, and there it was. It was brand new.”

 

From Haverstraw Bay, approaching the Tappan Zee Bridge with missing main span center section. Photo by Janie Rosman

 

Several years earlier, a 10-year-old Rockland lad had schemed for months awaiting the new bridge’s December 15, 1955 opening day.

As Governor Averill Harriman planned to drive across the 3.1-mile cantilever truss span, he saw Paul Anderson walking toward him. The governor had been delayed, and in the meantime, Anderson walked to the Westchester side. Amused, Harriman invited him into his limousine back to Rockland for the official first ride.

 

Each eight 40-story-high main span tower was completed in December 2016 and is supported by 12 pairs of stay cables totaling 700 miles of metal strands. Photo by Janie Rosman

 

Despite missing a center chunk of that span and landings, the Tappan Zee got as much camera attention as its recent $4 billion replacement during The Historical Society of Rockland County’s Tappan Zee Bridge Experience: Past, Present and Future on June 13, 2018.

“This is our fifth year, we’ve taken 12 trips and about 1,800 people” to see the bridge project, says Susan DeeksHSRC Executive Director. “It’s been a blast. Everyone has had a good time during these trips.”

 

Underside of the Tappan Zee Bridge main span, whose roadway was covered in places by metal plates. Photo by Janie Rosman

 

It’s easy at river level to see both bridges’ center spans are approximately 140 feet above the river, and both are triangular in shape to distribute weight evenly without changing their proportions. They also began with piles driven into the river.

Washington Irving High School class of 1954 graduate Dominick Minotti was aware of the noise outside his second-floor classroom window.

 

Cross-section of where crews removed one section of the Tappan Zee Bridge's main span. Photo by Janie Rosman

 

“The loudness of the bridge work contrasted with the soft voice of Miss Gates, our Latin teacher,” Minotti said. “Cicero’s orations read out loud by us were punctuated by the thunk of the pile driver. The sounds and sights of Ancient Rome and modern technology blended in a sleepy afternoon.”

The new bridge is 100 percent U.S. American-made steel and will have a walking/bicycle path with six scenic overlooks, anti-climb fencing, safety nets, three graded turnarounds for emergency vehicles, and a new water system with a fire department connection and valves at each end that allow water to flow through pipes directly to hydrants.

 

Opening day pins commemorating the new bridge. Photo by Janie Rosman

 

The 43 pairs of piers supporting the Westchester and Rockland approach spans have LED lighting programmable for events and holidays. Both spans will have four general traffic lanes, space for disabled vehicles and bus rapid transit, and three turnaround lanes for emergency vehicles. If an accident occurs, motorists can drive on the breakdown and bus lanes and, in extreme cases, be redirected using a turnaround lane.

 

Tappan Zee Bridge opening day ceremonial program given to Sheila Moore by neighbors. Photo by Janie Rosman

 

July 20 is the last HSRC boat tour as crews remove sections of the old bridge’s main span and complete the eastbound span that will open later this year. For information, visit https://www.rocklandhistory.org.


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