The brand new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge partially opened to the public early in the morning on Saturday, August 26.
For now, only the northbound section of the Thruway will lead drivers to the new bridge, while southbound traffic will continue to use the Tappan Zee Bridge until the fall when it moves over to the new bridge. Construction crews will begin to demolish the old bridge at that point and work on completing the final parts Cuomo Bridge. It’s expected to be completely finished by 2018 – until then, four lanes will be open going in each direction.
It’s been about 20 years since plans for a bridge to replace the deteriorating Tappan Zee Bridge were first announced, followed by years of planning, scrapping of plans, and re-planning. But now the end is in sight and commuters are excited to test out the brand new structure.
"It feels like it's been forever and very quick, is the best way I can explain it," said Chelsea Christonikos, the first person to cross the bridge about the time between the construction’s start and the bridge’s opening. "Forever in terms of they talked about it, how exactly they were going to do it. Now, they started it, and they got it up all of the sudden… I forgot it was even (opening). People were talking about it Friday night. As I got closer to the bridge, I thought, 'Oh, cool, I'm going to be going over the new bridge.'"
The 3.2-mile-long, 96-foot-wide bridge will have an extra lane compared to the old/current bridge, lanes that are about one foot wider, and shoulders for vehicle breakdowns, something that the Tappan Zee Bridge lacks. While the Cuomo Bridge won’t carry rail traffic, it will have a pedestrian and bicycle lane that will be completed once the main lanes are opened.
The $4 billion bridge is mostly financed through bonds which will need to be paid off with the money collected at tolls. Governor Andrew Cuomo promised that the toll for the new bridge will stay at the current Tappan Zee Bridge rate of $5, or $4.75 with an E-Z Pass, through 2020. It’s unclear what will happen to the price after that.