The Tappan Zee Bridge, which carries 51 million vehicles annually across the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester counties, is one of the Northeast region’s most important transportation arteries–and it’s badly in need of replacement.
Nicole Gelinas relates the story behind this “disaster in slow motion” in this article in the Spring Issue of Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. The bridge, she writes, “exemplifies the state of America’s infrastructure in 2011”:
We rely on it more than ever: each year, 51 million cars, trucks, and buses traverse the seven-lane “Tap,” as locals call it. More people commute over it than through the Lincoln or the Holland Tunnel, both of which cross the river to the south. Yet New York outgrew the bridge decades ago, with today’s traffic far exceeding the structure’s designed capacity. Worse, the Tappan Zee is a disaster in slow motion. Absent ceaseless repairs and ever-vigilant inspectors, it could collapse. Even short of such a disaster, the bridge’s deterioration poses a significant risk to the regional economy: if state officials ever felt that they were losing the battle against the Tap’s decay, they would shut it immediately, diverting traffic to already-clogged arteries to the south and preventing thousands of the downstate region’s workers and customers from getting to their destinations.
The Tappan Zee’s parlous condition is nothing new. Yet New York State, after more than a decade of halfhearted attempts to start building a replacement, remains at least another decade away from finishing a new bridge—in fact, a half-decade away from even beginning the project. This failure reflects a lack of political will, a weakness that threatens the Empire State’s capacity to grow.