Friday, August 19, 2011

A Big Bridge in the Wrong Place on the Hudson

From David Kestenbaum at Planet Money:

"You would never look at a map of the Hudson River (see above), point to the spot where the Tappan Zee Bridge is, and say, "Put the bridge here!" The Tappan Zee crosses one of the widest points on the Hudson — the bridge is more than three miles long. And if you go just a few miles south, the river gets much narrower. As you might expect, it would have been cheaper and easier to build the bridge across the narrower spot on the river.

So I wanted to answer a simple question: Why did they build the Tappan Zee where they did, rather than building it a few miles south?"

As you might imagine, building a big expensive bridge in the wrong place had nothing to do with economics, science, environmental concerns, engineering, logic or common sense, but everything to with... what's left? Politics.  Find out more here


At 8/19/2011 9:29 AM, Blogger Donny Baseball said...

Thanks for posting this. This is my neck of the woods and yet I was unaware of this story although it does not surprise me. The TZ is such a bad bridge it is - I kid you not - not even good for killing yourself off of. Several people a year attempt suicide by jumping off of it and a good number of them fail to die.

At 8/19/2011 11:38 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

what's wrong with the private sector building the bridge - where they think it is most cost-effective?

nothing is keeping them from making a proposal.....

At 8/19/2011 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The New State Thruway Authority could have paid off the bonds and gone out of business years ago, but it survives as a taxation without representation revenue source for New York State.

At 8/19/2011 12:06 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

The Ports Authoritys of NY and NJ have approved raising bridge and tunnel tolls 56% over the next five years. Much of the money generated will go towards building a new World Trade Center. The Port Authority of New York has also promised to look into charges of excessive overtime payments.

At 8/19/2011 1:21 PM, Blogger Donny Baseball said...

Larry G-
Everything is keeping the private sector from making a proposal. We just don't do it like that in New York. It's the gov't or nothing.

At 8/19/2011 5:39 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

As if on cue, One-Trick-Larry coughs up a Government-Knows-Best pretend question.

At 8/21/2011 11:24 AM, Blogger Skeptical Economist said...

A lot of folks are missing the real point here. Back when the original bridge was built, the location didn’t make much of a difference. Stated differently, construction costs were so low that finding the optimal location (a shorter bridge) wasn’t a major consideration.

The original bridge was built in 4 years at a cost of $81 million. It would have been finished sooner. However, steel shortages triggered by the Korean War slowed construction.

In current dollars, that’s around $668 million (See “The Tappan Zee Is Falling Down” by Nicole Gelinas). If a new or replacement bridge could actually be erected for 2/3rds of a billion location still wouldn’t matter.

The real problem is that the proposed replacement bridge will run $16 billion or more. That a 24X increase in costs since the Tappan Zee was finished. Until folks start to pay attention to the real issues (pun intended) we aren’t going to make a lot of progress in dealing with these problems.

By the way, this isn’t a Davis Bacon labor problem. The original bridge was almost certainly built with union labor. Construction wages have rises 1/3rd (at most) since the 1950 and have declined (a lot) since 1973.

At 8/21/2011 12:22 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

dollars to donuts - tolls are going to be a part of the picture.


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