Vehicles travel east Sept. 16, 2020, on the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, also known as the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock
- By Steve Bittenbender | The Center Square contributor
(The Canter Square) – A New York state senator called for a review of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo/Tappan Zee Bridge on Monday after a news report raised concerns about the nearly $4 billion four-year-old connector.
State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, sent a letter to Investigations and Government Operations Committee Chairman James Skoufis, D-Cornwall, requesting the committee meet to “review the troubling details” contained in an article from the Albany Times Union.
“You must take immediate action to ascertain the validity of what has been reported and to uncover the truth about what took place during the bridge’s construction,” Griffo wrote. “This presents itself as a clear and present danger. The traveling public, including those in the Hudson Valley who you represent, deserve to know that the bridge on which they are traversing is safe and free of dangerous structural deficiencies.”
Griffo serves as the ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee. In his letter to Skoufis, he referenced "alleged efforts to conceal these serious safety defects," raising the prospect of yet another cover-up allegation against an administration already reeling from accusations that it obscured the death toll from COVID-19 fatalities tied to nursing homes.
The Times Union spent eight months poring over state reviews regarding the construction of the bridge. The paper reported that “dozens of bolts” used on steel girders together had broken, some doing so more than a year after being installed and tightened onto plates holding the girders together.
“For structures like bridges and high-rises, experts say even a few broken bolts can weaken the immense splices and result in a catastrophic collapse,” the Times Union article read.
According to the newspaper, a safety officer for the construction project first discovered the possibility of defective bolts in January 2016. A month later, he learned an engineer and construction supervisors worked covertly to replace bolts. The safety manager was eventually fired.
However, he met with a New York Thruway Authority official and presented his information, the paper reported. In April 2017, a firm hired by the authority determines that anywhere “between 1 percent and 50 percent” of the 1 million bolts used “are in danger of failing.”
Despite those concerns, the bridge still opened in September 2018. Gov. Andrew Cuomo drove the first car across the span.
The case remained confidential for years, although a partial unsealing took place last month. That revealed a recent settlement between the attorney general’s office and Tappan Zee Constructors, the contracting firm that built the bridge.
The Times Union’s parent company is seeking to have the records unsealed, which the construction firm is challenging.
On Twitter Monday afternoon, the Thruway Authority replied to several comments about the article and insisted the bridge is safe. It also denied there was any cover up.
“(T)he bridge is completely safe and we would have never opened it if it were not safe,” the authority said. “The Thruway had extensive studies performed by some of the world’s most prominent experts who concluded the bolts and the bridge were safe long before either span opened to traffic.”
published here with permission of https://www.centersquare.com