Massive Crane Arrives to Help Dismantle Tappan Zee Bridge

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It passed through the Panama Canal and crossed two oeans photo: Janie Rosman
It passed through the Panama Canal and crossed two oceans photo: Janie Rosman

| by Janie Rosman |

Two days after its ceremonial arrival at the project site, the massive I Lift NY crane completed the final leg of its journey: passing under the bridge it will eventually help to dismantle.

The only topic to upstage its journey from lower Manhattan was one word: tolls.

Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed that straight on when he joined community leaders, reporters and project officials in Piermont on October 6 to welcome the crane. “We need to get a little more specific information before we can figure out what the tolls could be,” he said.

Asked about the task force he proposed in 2012 to address this, Cuomo cited the variables.

“We don’t know how much we will get from the federal government, how much we will we get from the state; there are state loans and grants we can access,” he said. Additional unknowns are the built-in contract incentives for Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) to finish the project before spring 2018 or penalties for completing it later.

“Once you have those numbers, then you can come up with a plan about how to do it, what commuters should pay, on-hour, off-hour, etc.,” he said.

The governor assured the task force will be formed “I think within the next year, certainly,” and commuters “should have to pay as little as possible.”

What we do know is the I Lift NY will save the state money. “I’ve never had a deep emotional connection to a crane before, but I want you to know that I truly am in love with this crane,” Cuomo said. “They call it the I Lift NY crane, I call it the I Love NY crane.” He later told reporters, “I love the crane that saved us $1 billion.”

Here’s how: The project was initially estimated to be $5.2 billion, and design-build opened bidding to the private sector. The winning bidder (of three companies that bid) came in at $3.9 billion; the crane was a deal-breaker.

After its six-plus-week trek from Oakland, CA, and recent docking at Jersey City, it arrived ready to set sections of pre-fabricated steel, 350 feet long each, from about 100 miles north at Port of Coeymans.

Barging the metal downriver and lifting it into place reduces the amount of necessary dredging by about 50 percent, special project advisor Brian Conybeare noted, as does the shallow-drafted barge the crane rests upon.

Cuomo noted that TZC is “building a bridge in one of the most environmentally-sensitive areas on the globe,” citing environmental protections and precautions in place to protect the Hudson River and its marine life. These include oyster relocation, bubble curtains protecting endangered Atlantic and short nose sturgeon, and acoustic receivers near the construction zone to locate these species, tagged by other researchers.

Per a September 19 email from NYS DEC representative Peter Constantakes, agency staff visited the Port of Coeymans after being alerted of possible violations related to work being performed by TZC, and directed the company to cease operations immediately.

On October 8, Constantakes wrote, “DEC completed an investigation of this incident and has entered into an Order on Consent with Tappan Zee Constructors that addresses violations of the Environmental Conservation law. The violations pertain to the company beginning construction at the site prior to DEC issuing the necessary permits.

 The Consent Order requires Tappan Zee Constuctors to pay a $10,000 civil penalty and provide at least $55,000 for an Environmental Benefit Project to be determined by DEC.”

At 24 percent completed, and with 65 percent of the piling is in, the project is now “going vertical,” TZC president Darrell Waters said, noting 31 cranes are working in-river. “By end of year, you will start to see main span pylons coming out of the foundations.”

Take advantage of the viewing area at Pierson Park in Tarrytown, outfitted with high-powered monoculars and three informational panels.

At the Thruway Authority’s August 6 meeting, Chairman Howard P. Milstein noted some legislators “think there’s a surplus of $4 billion, and (that it) should be used for the bridge,” citing the $3.3 billion New York State is set to receive from a recent record settlement with France’s largest bank that will be added to its general fund.

Some of this money would be deposited into a new infrastructure bank created by the state, the governor said.

To date, the project awarded more than $100 million to DBE firms and contracted with 137 companies from Westchester County, 64 from Rockland County. “Almost 550 craftsmen (are) on the project site,” Waters said. “(This) will peak at about 650 (people) working here next year.”

Citing the Empire State’s fortitude, Cuomo stated, “For people who have lost faith in New York, for people who think we can’t get things done, New Yorkers haven’t lost their creativity, they haven’t lost their energy, they haven’t lost their combativeness, their competiveness, and that’s what this project is all about.”

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