Six Decades Later: Happy Birthday to the TZB

EIght--year-old Kate R. in Rockland captured the bridge's birthday and essence perfectly.

Eight–year-old Kate R. in Rockland captured the bridge’s birthday and essence perfectly.

It was December 15, 1955: a bridge across the Hudson River, where formerly ferries crossed, connecting I-87 northbound from New York City to Albany. Later, it connected to I-287 (Cross Westchester Expressway).

Legislation signed by Governor W. Averell Harriman on February 28, 1956, officially named it the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was rededicated, and got a longer name, when Governor Malcolm Wilson was added in 1994 — the 20th anniversary of his leaving the governor’s office. We like the abbreviated name.

tzb ribbon-cuttingA 27-mile stretch of Thruway from Suffern to Yonkers opened only 18 months after the first cars drove on the thruway upstate.

That was then, this is now: it carries nearly 40 percent more vehicles daily than the 100,000 anticipated, and shows signs of wear despite six years of deck replacement a sun angles that sometimes make it look newish.

For the record: not only was there a major traffic accident four days after it opened — four cars traveling from Rockland to Westchester at dusk bumped into each other, and caused the first backup — one driver thought it was fare-free.

“Within a day or so of opening day, the local paper reported a female driver went thru the toll booth without stopping,” former resident Peter Hall said. When she was pulled over by police and questioned, the woman said the light was green.

Opening Day celebration brochure signed by everyone who was there/NNYB Outreach

Opening Day celebration brochure signed by everyone who was there/NNYB Outreach

While March 1952 marked the start of construction, 60 years later (March 2012) a Request for Proposal (RFP) began a countdown to its demise . . . and brought more attention: projects and educational programs, colorful variations and models in classrooms and universities, extended learning centers, and social and community groups, and visits from the president and the governor.

It was eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (under Criteria A and C in Appendix D – Preliminary Section 106 and 4(f) Analysis for Tappan Zee Bridge). The purportedly-100-year-old wood barge and its coal cargo submerged below – reminiscent of the river’s role in industry and commerce, and in the construction zone – was also recommended for the same prestigious award.

Nearly everyone, including me, has stories to share — when it was built, when it first opened, childhood trips, teenage years, watching the water, exploring the structure, years between then and now.

Happy birthday to the bridge many of us will never forget. Memories last forever.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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