ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Following a report in the Albany Times Union on Sunday about the structural integrity of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, formerly the Tappan Zee Bridge, State Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-I-C-Rome) wrote to the Senate’s Investigations and Government Operations Committee on Monday morning to immediately examine the accusations from the article.
“You must take immediate action to ascertain the validity of what has been reported and to uncover the truth about what took place during the bridge’s construction,” Sen. Griffo wrote to Sen. James Skoufis (D-Cornwall), who chairs the committee.
“This presents itself as a clear and present danger. The traveling public, including those in the Hudson Valley who you represent, deserve to know that the bridge on which they are traversing is safe and free of dangerous structural deficiencies.”
That afternoon, New York Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro released a statement in response to the concerns.
She said that her office, in conjunction with the Thruway Authority and the New York State Attorney General’s Office, conducted a “thorough” investigation into the bolt issue on the bridge.
Tagliafierro added that as soon as the allegation was brought to her attention, an investigation was immediately created. She says her staff reviewed thousands of documents, collected evidence, conducted interviews, and reviewed audio of conversations between individuals who were trying to hide the replacement of the bolts. Also, Tagliaferro obtained testimony from engineers who admitted to secretly replacing the broken bolts.
“As part of this investigation, in March 2017, the Thruway Authority engaged an independent testing laboratory to evaluate broken bolts discovered on the project,” the statement said. “The laboratory informed the Thruway Authority that the bolts did not compromise the safety of the bridge. The Thruway Authority communicated this finding to the Inspector General and also advised that it is undertaking additional inspections and testing of the bolts as warranted.”
Jamey Barbas, Project Director for the New York State Thruway Authority, also made a statement on Monday afternoon.
“In Sunday’s story, ‘Broken bolts: Structural problems on the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge were covered up,’ the Times Union makes unfortunate, misleading, and erroneous statements that irresponsibly portrays an alarming and unsafe situation — one which is certainly not the case,” Barbas argued. “First and foremost, the bridge has been and continues to be safe for the traveling public.”
She added that the article implies that the Thruway Authority tried to “cover up” the issue or did not act in a “timely manner.” Barbas echoed what Tagliafierro said, which is that the Thruway Authority “immediately” informed the Inspector General of the matter. Subsequently, the Authority spent more than one million dollars, consulted “world-renowned” experts, developed a testing program, conducted extensive studies, and tested over 500 bolts to check the bridge’s safety.
Barbas stated tests confirmed that the bolts “met or exceeded” the requirements established by the American Society for Testing and Materials. She did add, however, that “the very small number of bolts that were broken is not a cause for safety concern on such a large bridge consisting of more than one million bolts.”
Both the Inspector General’s Office and the New York State Thruway Authority commented that they are unable to release any additional information.