Coming Soon: The Final Act of the Disappearing Tappan Zee

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by Barrett Seaman – 

Sorry boys and girls: no more fireworks. The Ides of January blast that rattled windows and drew cheering crowds to the banks of the Hudson as it brought down the 6,500-ton eastern truss of the Tappan Zee is to be the last blast. Tappan Zee Constructors (TZC), which is conducting the demolition project, is reverting to quieter means as it plots to bring down the remaining western truss.

Using barge-based cranes and strand jacks, workers will lower the remaining anchor span onto a waiting barge and dismantle it. Unlike the giant center span, these last two trusses will not be taken out to the Atlantic off Long Island and dropped into the deep to serve as an amusement park for fish.

For the moment, the eastern truss lies semi-submerged like a beached leviathan. Pre-positioned chains keep it from sinking to the bottom, allowing TZC to dismantle its remaining pieces and recycle them.

What will be left are the piles, piers and caissons that supported the bridge and their foundations buried in the riverbed. Exactly when they will be removed depends on the weather, especially the wind that can wreak havoc with activity in or near the water.

While all of this is surely fascinating to construction engineers, none of it will compare with the festive atmosphere surrounding the detonations that felled the eastern truss on January 15. It could have been the Fourth of July that day—except that it was bathed in sunlight in mid-January. Cars pulled off roads near vantage points and people streamed from their homes and offices from Sleepy Hollow to Irvington in anticipation of a very brief but spectacular display of fireworks. (See

Traffic on the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge was blocked off beginning at 10 a.m. but it was not until almost 11 when the quadruple detonations shattered the morning air. Tappan Zee Constructors had advised that the explosions would sound like July 4th fireworks and to keep pets inside. The fireballs and burst of gray smoke appeared a few long seconds before the sound waves rattled windows onshore. Then cheers and applause rose from the shoreline redoubts where spectators had gathered.

Prime seats were to be found at the bottom of Tappan Landing Road, at The Quay next door, the rear parking lot of the office building at 303 South Broadway and at the base of Van Wart Street from which hundreds of viewers snaked down the north entry of the RiverWalk, which had an unobstructed sightline to the bridge.

One of the most popular viewing spots was at Lyndhurst, where the estate’s executive director Howard Zar had invited a veritable Who’s Who of the Rivertowns to witness the spectacle from the lofty castle tower. Price tag: $100, but the mimosas were on the house. A mile downstream in Irvington, crowds braved the west winds to witness the explosions from Mathiessen Park. As late as noon, cars were still exiting these venues onto Broadway. The traffic on I-87/287 resumed its normal pace, and there was little sign of the delays feared by local police.

Since then, peace and routine have been restored. When the Tappan Zee finally disappears, it will not be with another bang.

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