Flawed Bolts and Cost Overruns On The Cuomo Bridge Pile On To The Governor’s Woes
By Barrett Seaman–
Life is complicated enough for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, what with seven women and counting alleging sexual harassment and growing numbers of elected officials calling for his resignation. Now, conflict has resurfaced regarding the bridge across the Hudson he named for his late father, Governor Mario M. Cuomo. The eponymous bridge, the son’s pride and joy, which he christened in 2018 in time for his election to a third term, is gathering trouble like moths to a candle.
Simmering litigation to resolve disputes between the New York Thruway Authority that oversaw its construction on the one hand and a swarm of construction companies that worked under the umbrella of Tappan Zee Constructors (TZC) on the other threatens to jack the price up on the $3.9 billion project. In February, TZC sued the Thruway Authority for $960 million for what it claims are state-ordered cost overruns that would put the lie to Governor Cuomo’s oft-repeated claim that the massive project was done on time and under budget.
Then earlier this month, the Albany Times Union newspaper published results of an eight-month investigation into 2016 allegations that an unknown number of steel bolts used to hold the bridge’s 100-ton girders together were flawed. The implication is that if enough of these bolts snapped, as some workers claimed to have witnessed, the bridge could collapse.
The Thruway Authority and TZC swiftly responded to the newspaper’s charges, trotting out the bridge’s Project Director, Jamey Barbas, to refute the story, citing its “unfortunate, misleading and erroneous statements” and assuring the public that the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is safe.
“To be clear, the massive, bolted steel plate connections on the girders are not in any danger of failing and the bridge is safe,” Barbas’s statement read. “A typical bolted connection has more than 500 bolts. The built-in redundancy of the bridge system allays any potential concerns that a failure would occur.”
No sooner had the renewed dispute over the bolts erupted than Representative Mondaire Jones, whose 17th Congressional District is literally linked by the bridge, released a letter he has written to newly confirmed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling for a federal investigation of the structural defects. “Public safety is of paramount importance, and any claims that the bridge may contain dangerous structural deficiencies must be immediately and thoroughly investigated,” wrote Jones. “I urge you to use your authority to open an investigation into these claims and implore you to work with the New York State Department of Transportation to ensure proper inspections are conducted to assure the public of the safety of the bridge.”