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First Span of New Tappan Zee Bridge Opens

Steel girders form the structural support for a connective path between the twin spans. (Photo: New York State Thruway Authority)

The first span of New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge replacement — officially renamed the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (after current Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo) — opens to westbound traffic today. The three-mile-long, twin-span steel crossing, which is on track to open next year and on budget at $3.98 billion, is one of the largest active bridge projects in the nation and a testament to the work and capabilities of America’s steel fabricators and constructors.

The new bridge is being built by Tappan Zee Constructors, a design-build LLC composed of Fluor Corporation, American Bridge Company, Granite Construction Northeast and Traylor Bros. Three AISC/NSBA member fabricators, High Steel Structures, Hirschfeld Industries and Canam-Bridges, have together provided more than 110,000 tons of structural steel while playing a key role in the support of more than 7,700 jobs. And just as the fabrication was provided domestically, so too was the steel production, with 160,000 tons of steel plate for both the superstructure and sheet pilings coming from AISC-member ArcelorMittal. The design-build approach generated more than $1 billion in savings compared with the state and federal cost estimates.  

“Our members have really proven their mettle, meeting customer needs and delivering domestic structural steel for the new bridge over the past four years,” said Danielle Kleinhans, PE, PhD, vice president of bridges and managing director of the National Steel Bridge Alliance. “This bridge demonstrates that the U.S. steel industry has the capacity and know-how to fabricate even the largest of U.S. infrastructure projects.”

The bridge features a proven steel girder system, with center-to-center spacing of 25 ft and additional floor beams to support the deck. Essentially, it's the same system used on bridges throughout the U.S., simply on a far greater scale. As John O'Quinn, president of High Steel Structures, explains, "This has been a fantastic project to work on. It's very straightforward in terms of fabrication and constructability, which makes our job as fabricators much easier. We spoke numerous times with the design team on how best to construct a bridge of this magnitude. Everything we used on this bridge can typically be seen on bridges the general public drives over/under in their daily travels — the only major difference being that most of the Tappan Zee girders are 12 ft deep and weigh upwards of 100 tons." High Steel Structures has fabricated more than 800 steel girders used to construct the new bridge.

Dennis Hirschfeld, CEO of Hirschfeld Industries, added, “We are excited to be a part of such a monumental bridge project of this size and historic nature. The combination of experience and resources that we as U.S. fabricators bring to this project is strong and important to its success, and we are proud that Hirschfeld was recognized as a company that has the capability and strength to handle a job of this magnitude.”

The 1,200-ft main span serves as the iconic signature of the new bridge. The 419-ft-high towers support more than 14 miles of stay cables and create a sleek and clean aesthetic.

The new bridge is expected to last at least 100 years without the need for major repairs. For more about the bridge, visit www.newnybridge.com.


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