EDITORIAL: Full investigation, disclosure on Cuomo Bridge’s broken bolts

The new Mario Cuomo Bridge, shot in May 2017
PHOTOGRAPHER:
The new Mario Cuomo Bridge, shot in May 2017

There’s just so much wrong going on in the Cuomo administration — from the coverup over the covid nursing home statistics, to the multiple sexual harassment allegations against the governor, to the alleged use of government staff to work on his covid brag book — that those cases have virtually overshadowed another potential scandal that could be life and death for many New York motorists.

Now that the state budget is out of the way and the attorney general’s office and Legislature are looking into the other matters, lawmakers need to put their full focus on the four-year-long issue of broken and damaged bolts on the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.

Officials have known for years about the bolts — a million or so of which hold together the massive beams that support the span carrying 100,000 vehicles a day over the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester counties.

Concerns over the bolts were raised in a lawsuit filed in 2017 by a whistleblower accusing the consortium that built the 3.1-mile span, Tappen Zee Constructors, of covering up flaws with the bolts and with replacing damaged bolts before inspectors had a chance to identify problems.

A Times Union investigation recently shined a new spotlight on the issue and on the efforts to conceal the problems.

The State Thruway Authority claims it has investigated the situation and determined that the concerns only relate to a “very small number of bolts that were broken” and “is not a cause for safety concern.”

The Federal Highway Administration also has reviewed the state’s examination and said it has “no safety concerns.”

Still it’s difficult to know what to believe, given that documents related to the whistleblower’s lawsuit have not been released to the public in full. Last month, a state appellate court released only a portion of the whistleblower’s suit.

The fact that documents remain sealed leaves many questions about how thoroughly the state investigated the complaints about the bolts and, by extension, how safe the bridge actually is.

State lawmakers should demand a full, independent investigation of the situation and the complete release of all documents related to it.

That should include nothing less than a full public disclosure of the entire whistleblower’s lawsuit, testimony of all individuals who were personally aware of problems with the bolts and/or with efforts to keep information from investigators, and a full review and disclosure of past and ongoing tests of the bridge’s safety.

Of all the problems going on in the Cuomo administration these days, this may be the most overlooked, and the most serious, of them all.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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