Greg Scruggs | Next City

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Savvy travelers seeking to avoid the crawling pace of the George Washington Bridge (of Bridgegate fame), which carries I-95 over the Hudson River but snarls with city traffic in the Bronx, have long opted for the Tappan Zee Bridge farther north. After only 50 years, however, the Tappan Zee — opened in 1955 — is slated for a replacement. While allowing bikes, pedestrians and mass transit to use an interstate highway would have been unthinkable in the era of the Eisenhower interstate highway boom, the 21st-century bridge, even in the suburbs, will be multimodal.

At three miles, the Tappan Zee is the longest bridge in New York State, even though there are many other spots where the Hudson is narrower. The reason: Any farther south and it would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Instead, the New York State Thruway Authority, wholly under Albany’s control, owns and operates the span. That means the burden falls squarely on Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is up for reelection this fall.

Thus far, he can boast of an under-budget project slated to cost $4 billion by the time both spans are completed in 2018. For now, the first pilings are popping out of the Hudson alongside the existing bridge, which carries 40 percent more cars per day than initially anticipated. Of them, a whopping 98 percent are single-occupant vehicles, something that the new bridge — which does not yet have a name — hopes to alleviate.

For starters, like the George Washington Bridge to the south and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to the north, the new Hudson River crossing will allow pedestrians and bikes to cross. Although the three-mile distance is considerably longer than its upriver and downriver neighbors, it could still prove popular, especially with recreational cyclists. Read more