The Tappan Zee Bridge, that utilitarian span over the Hudson River north of New York City, was built to last for 50 years, and it has been open for 56. As the state plans a $5 billion replacement bridge, there are new calls to give the aging structure a second life.
Residents in the area have for years proposed turning the three-mile-long bridge over to cyclists and pedestrians once a larger bridge is completed nearby. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the greenway “an exciting option” worth further study.
There are a lot of unanswered questions, but if the idea can be made to work, a Tappan Zee walkway could be a splendid public attraction. The bridge would not be an easy stroll since its pitch can be a little steep for amblers. But the view on a clear day is often spectacular, with New York City in the distance. Plus, the length of the bridge — built at one of the wider points in the river — is nearly perfect for a 5-kilometer foot race.
Mr. Cuomo seems enthusiastic about reusing the bridge for pedestrians, especially because it would cost $150 million to tear it down. The state currently spends about $50 million a year to maintain the bridge for vehicle traffic, but that would go down considerably if the cantilevered structure had to support only pedestrians and bicyclists. There is already some talk that private donations could help turn the bridge into a lofty, suburban version of the popular High Line on the West Side of Manhattan.
The Cuomo administration has asked four design teams to come up with proposals by June to replace the bridge. If that structure is to be turned into a haven for walkers and bikers, the design for the new bridge should take care to protect scenic views from the new greenway.