Safety First: Last-Minute Call to delay Lane Switch due to a Fault in TZB Joint

Remaining Tappan Zee Bridge is now safety concern/EarthCam® construction camera

Tappan Zee Constructors, Inc. (LLC) crews were ready to switch four lanes of traffic to the new eastbound span last night when TZC President and Project Executive Terry Towle, safety his first priority, changed his mind.

“It looks like one of the members of the old Tappan Zee Bridge structure slipped in one of the joints,” Towle said during a conference call with media this afternoon. “We’re investigating what happened with the engineers.”

He said crews coming off shift heard a noise. “They saw a joint that looked like it slipped and took some photos. Engineers investigated, and at 6:30, I thought it would be a problem and canceled the traffic shift at approximately 8 p.m.”

Once this issue arose, “it was a short window of time to make a decision.” The eastbound span’s opening (date) will be evaluated as “we want to be sure the old bridge — approximately 160 feet from the new bridge — is stabilized.”

“We certainly appreciate TZC being proactive and had crews in position to do the (traffic) shift,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said. “At the end of the day, public safety trumps all and should trump politics. That is the Thruway’s number one charge and the governor’s as well.”

Here is what would have occurred last night (Shift 1) and in two weeks (Shift 2).

Despite assurances from structural engineers that there was no danger to either of the new bridge’s spans, Towle said, TZC is not taking any risks. “(My) personal preference is not do anything until there are assurances from multiple engineers that the truss is stabilized,” he reiterated.

Part of that evaluation includes deciding if TZC will now expedite removal of the old bridge or if it will adhere to its original schedule, which was to lower the Westchester anchor span by October and the Rockland anchor span by December, then continue with underwater work going into next year.

The old bridge’s most recent inspection occurred when its disassembly plan was made more than one year ago. “Crews taking down the bridge are very careful and look at the day’s work ahead of time,” Towle assured.

However, “there’s a slight possibility that the joints could fail, and if they fail, then the bridge could potentially fall, and the theoretical possibility is that it could fall toward the eastbound span,” he said. “Engineers have run analyses and are looking at those various options. It’s too soon to answer that.”

When asked who chose the date to open the second, Project Director Jamey Barbas, P.E., said, “TZC advised me and the governor’s office a while (three weeks, one month) ago that the bridge would be open to traffic on September 8.” Friday is good for traffic volume, Barbas said, and it was after Labor Day so as not to inconvenience motorists.

During the call, Towle admitted, “Bottom line is we worked hard to get the eastbound span done, and the fact that it’s empty is embarrassing.”

While the eastbound span didn’t open as planned, the design-build consortium’s president made a last-minute call to put safety first. Take Zero Chances.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2018

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