Report: New York AG investigating construction of Mario Cuomo Bridge
- The New York State Attorney General’s office has confirmed to NBC 4 News that it is investigating a potential coverup of defective steel bolts discovered during construction of the $4 billion Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, formerly the Tappan Zee Bridge, over the Hudson River in New York.
- Approximately 60 of the steel bolts used to build the bridge, totaling about one million, broke apart during construction. A whistleblower, who was a safety inspector for the bridge project, said evidence of the busted bolts was thrown away and that documents were falsified to cover up the defective bolts’ existence. The whistleblower turned over tapes to the AG’s office in which one worker called the bad bolts “a major defect” and others indicated that the problem wasn’t reported because it could cause a work stoppage, which would slow down the project.
- The New York State Thruway Authority began an investigation into the allegations in 2016, and after testing, it determined that the bolts and bridge were safe. An engineering firm told News 4 that the likely cause of the small number of bolt defects was a byproduct of the manufacturing process or over-tightening, according to The New York Times, but another expert said that the bolts still could be at risk of “hydrogen embrittlement,” which could cause them to break down over time. The Thruway Authority said it is still testing the bolts and that bridge builder Tappan Zee Constructors is cooperating.
In September, The New York Times reported that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration allegedly offered incentives to Tappan Zee Constructors to open the eastern side of the bridge to traffic, even though there was an acknowledgment of potential safety concerns on the part of New York Thruway Authority official Jamey Barbas.
A July letter from Barbas to Tappan Zee Constructors directed the builder to open the bridge by Aug. 24. In the letter, which was obtained by The Times, Barbas wrote that the agency would "not hold Tappan Zee Constructors responsible for any traffic incident(s) or damage to the work that results from shifting traffic on the bridge while all elements are not fully complete as permitted by this letter.” Some engineers were reportedly concerned that an unstable piece of the old bridge would fall onto the new span.
According to The Times, the authority offered to pay for any "premium costs” incurred as part of meeting the deadline. Some claimed that the governor and his administration wanted the bridge open before voters cast their ballots in the September 2018 Democratic primary, but Cuomo called the charges “nonsensical."
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