Tappan Zee Bridge

I snapped a photo of the New York Times in Starbucks yesterday because the news of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, just north of New York City, caught my attention:

Its opening comes at a time of skyrocketing construction costs, diminished resources devoted to infrastructure, and deteriorating subways and airports in New York.

“We built the longest bridges, the most sophisticated tunnels,” Mr. Cuomo said. “But we lost that daring, we lost that competence.”

In talking about the factors that have hampered big projects, the governor sounded like a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, as some have suggested he is. “A more litigious society” got in the way, he said, as did a “NIMBY factor” and politicians allergic to conflict and risk. With troubled projects like Boston’s “Big Dig” highway tunnel, which was plagued by cost overruns, shoddy work, scandals and one death, the United States, he said, is falling behind in the competition with countries that build sleek new airports and railway systems.

The governor boasted that the state has $100 billion in infrastructure projects in progress or planning, including renovations of LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports and Penn Station.

“What the New Tappan Zee says is we can still do great things,” Mr. Cuomo said.

In a ceremony on Thursday, Mr. Cuomo drove across the bridge in a 1955 Corvette with a noteworthy passenger: Armando Galella, a 96-year-old veteran of the attack on Pearl Harbor who had driven across the original Tappan Zee Bridge on its opening day in 1955.

Robert Moses, one of the fathers of New York as we know it, possessed the sort of daring and competenace Cuomo says we’ve lost. But Moses’s decades-long presence at the head of New York planning agencies came at terrible social cost. Is that the trade-off? Either do great and visionary things at great social cost, or do good little things that maintain what you already have?

The new Tappan Zee looks a lot more beautiful than the one that opened in 1955, but it’s not doing anything new. It’s just replacing a bridge that had come to the end of its life.

We can’t get the Hyperloop soon enough.

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