The Lady is not for moving

New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge has inspired some head-scratching from many onlookers who think to themselves: ‘Why build the bridge at such a wide crossing?’ Macquarie’s Chris Leslie said at a media event earlier this year that the bridge requires about $150 million in annual upkeep and suggested that it be rebuilt with private sector involvement. The Hudson River is much narrower just a little farther south, so here’s the thing: Why on earth build the Tappan Zee there?

An intrepid National Public Radio (NPR) reporter decided to find out. The reporter interviewed a collection of New Yorkers, including the son of Thomas Dewey, the ex-Governor who presided over the bridge’s construction, as well as a self-described “forensic engineer” living at the foot of the Tappan Zee who passes his days scribbling a novel about the bridge’s impending collapse.

So, why there? The NPR reporter’s best guess, thanks to some guidance from a historian and emeritus Princeton professor, is that – as with so many things – it’s a question of territory. 

If the bridge had been built any farther south, it would have lain in the jurisdiction of the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, which had exclusive rights to build bridges or tunnels within a 25-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty. But Dewey wanted to use the tolls from the bridge to fund state projects, like the New York State Thruway.

In the radio show, the listener can hear the historian pulling out a map and putting his finger on the Tappan Zee, and lo and behold … the bridge lies just outside the Port Authority line, about 25 and a half miles from the iconic Statue of Liberty. An inconveniently wide crossing maybe, but you can’t force a Lady to move.