Mario Cuomo Bridge open to traffic amid political controversy

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Rob Nelson reports on the eastbound span of the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge opening after days of delays.

Traffic is now flowing on the eastbound span of the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge after days of delays, and on the eve of the New York primary, the bridge opening has become a hot topic on the campaign trail.

The governor's office tweeted video showing vehicles flowing smoothly across the span on Tuesday night.

The Westchester-bound span was supposed to open last Saturday, but that plan was scratched because of safety concerns over a section of the old Tappan Zee Bridge still to be demolished.

Engineers said the old section next to the eastbound span was discovered to be destabilized Friday night while crews were preparing to paint lane lines on the eastbound span ahead of Saturday morning's scheduled opening.
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Rob Nelson reports on the opening from Tarrytown.

Tappan Zee Constructors, the bridge contractors, said the pre-opening work was rescheduled for Tuesday evening, as traffic started flowing on the eastbound span Wednesday morning.

On Friday, Gov. Cuomo held a grand opening ceremony on the eastbound span featuring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The event included Cuomo giving his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, and members of his family rides across the new span in a 1932 Packard convertible owned by Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was New York governor.

The New York Times reported that the Cuomo administration offered enticements to the builders of the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to open the structure's second span in August, ahead of this week's Democratic primary.

The Times reports that a Thruway Authority official wrote to contractors in July directing that work on the eastbound span be completed so the bridge could fully open August. 24. The official offered to absolve contractors of responsibility for accidents that might occur while work continued as traffic moved across the span.

According to an internal state document obtained by the Times, Jamey Barbas, the Thruway Authority official overseeing the bridge project, sought to negotiate the timing of the second span's opening. In addition to absolving contractors of accident responsibility, Barbas told the builders the state would absorb "premium additional costs" if the second span was open on Aug. 24.

She denied that the offers in her letter amounted to incentives, telling the Times that the Aug. 24 date was a 10-day extension on a contract deadline agreed to more than a year ago.

Cuomo has said he and his administration had no role in the timing of the bridge's opening, a claim challenged by his political opponents, including fellow Democrat Cynthia Nixon, who's facing him in Thursday's primary, and Marc Molinaro, a Republican who's running for governor.

Nixon said there's "reasonable questions" about whether last Saturday's scheduled span opening was accelerated to boost the governor's campaign, while Molinaro has called for the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the matter.

The first of the twin spans carrying Interstate 87 over the Hudson River opened last year, with eastbound and westbound traffic sharing the span. Now fully opened, each span features four vehicle lanes, and a pedestrian-bicycle path on the westbound span is scheduled to open in 2019.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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