Around 10 AM on Tuesday, January 15th, the school day came to a near halt in anticipation of easily the most exciting local event of 2019: the explosive demolition of one of the last remaining spans of the iconic Tappan Zee Bridge. Our school, blessed with stunning views of the Hudson River, was fortuitously one of the prime viewing locations in town, so it was unsurprising that students and teachers alike crammed into river-facing classrooms and landings to view the destruction.
As everyone waited in suspense for the blast, school rules and schedules seemed to dissipate: students wandered freely among classrooms in search of the best view, louder-than-average chatter filled the hallways, and a sense of wonder was in the air. After nearly an hour of anticipation–the blast arrived behind schedule–there was a loud, deep BOOM as an orange fireball of destruction billowed out from under the bridge. The span settled into the Hudson River, most of it still visible above the waterline. Everyone cheered in celebration of this real-life action movie scene, and soon enough the school day resumed.
An explosion like this was not in the original plans for the bridge. According to the New York Times, the initial idea was to dismantle it piece by piece, as an explosion could potentially have negative effects on Hudson River fish and wildlife. However, after extensive engineering analysis, it was determined that the span was unstable and thus unsafe for workers; ironically, it became clear that explosion was, in fact, the safest option.
Explosives were strategically placed to take out the legs underneath the span, so that the span itself would fall neatly into the river below. To remove the span and resulting debris, barges will drag the span away from the river’s navigation channel, and steel netting has been placed at the bottom of the river to catch debris. The company behind the demolition says that all steel, concrete, and asphalt will be removed from the river in time.
There is now just one span of the bridge left standing, which will continue to be taken apart in pieces. Still, the explosion marked the beginning of a new era: that of the Mario Cuomo Bridge. Only time will tell if the Tappan Zee name will live on as the Mario Cuomo Bridge’s unofficial handle, but one thing is for certain: before long, the bridge we all grew up with will soon be but a memory.