New span at Kosciuszko Bridge opens with light show

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The first span of the new Kosciuszko Bridge officially opened to traffic with a colorful light show set to music Thursday night. The first vehicles started to drive across the bridge at 11:30 p.m.

The first phase of the bridge -- the first major bridge built in the city since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge -- cost $555 million and will temporarily allow for three lanes of traffic in each direction.

DOT time lapse video of construction:
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See a time lapse of construction on the new Kosciuszko Bridge span

Ultimately, the span is expected to accommodate 180,000 cars per day. By comparison, the original bridge, opened in 1939, was built for only 10,000.

They haven't built a bridge in this town in more than half a century, but Thursday night the Kosciuszko Bridge was reborn.

"That is the obligation of being a New Yorker, to take the gift we were given and improve on it when we give it to our children," Governor Cuomo said.

The pronunciation of the name is still a sticking point, but Cuomo went with "koo-shoe-sko."

For the evening ceremony, it was also lit up to sync with the Empire State Building.

Governor Cuomo turned the page on the bridge that connects Queens and Brooklyn, known mostly for its unpronounceable name, and permanent residence in the traffic report.

A crumbling, pothole ridden, rusted out husk of metal and asphalt, built at the end of the great depression, barely a decade before the age of the automobile would overwhelm it forever.

"The bridge was designed for 1939 and it is outdated, outmoded, it did its time," said Ron Schweiger, Brooklyn Borough Historian.

At 11:30 p.m., Department of Transportation workers began routing traffic to the new bridge. A striking half billion dollar marvel that's just the first part of the project.

"We're only halfway there, this is just the first of two spans. So while this bridge is much better than the old one, there's another one to come," said Robert Sinclair, AAA.

By this summer, workers will demolish the old span and a twin bridge will rise, meaning ultimately, one bridge in each direction over the Newtown Creek.

But to the crowd at the opening, this is progress enough. The light show was attended by hundreds of special guests, including people whose sweat and tears went into building it.

Ed Bryant of EJ Electric designed the lighting, lights that'll shine for generations to come.

"My kids will be driving across that bridge, and my dad was part of it. I'll see it, it's part of the skyline now like they said, it's just a phenomenal feeling, you can't take it away," Bryant said.

It is striking as the first cable-stayed bridge in New York, as tall as the Statue of Liberty.
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