The new New York Thruway bridge project over the Hudson River hit another snag Tuesday when a construction crane near the western shore of the river toppled over onto the old Tappan Zee span, snarling traffic in both directions – but causing no serious injuries.

The collapse and cleanup of the crane – one of the smaller pile-driving cranes employed by the consortium Tappan Zee Constructors (TZC) – was expected to be only a minor setback for the project. On July 12 the Coast Guard established a 200-yard safety zone around the 398’x100’x22’ Left Coast Lifter, the biggest crane on the construction site, and that work was continuing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

“If anything, it will be a question of reopening the old bridge” after structural damage is evaluated,” Cuomo said at a riverside news conference. “The silver lining is no one was seriously hurt.”

The crane collapse follows after the March 12 sinking of the tugboat Specialist and death of three crewmen after an allision with a construction barge. A pusher tug operated by TZC sank June 30 but its two crewmen escaped without injury.

The safety zone is in place through 2018 and the anticipated end of construction. The extent is required to keep passing mariners safe from the crane barge anchor cables, according to a notice in the Federal Register:

“The anchor and cable system extends outward from the crane barge, up to 200 yards, in four varying directions, at various heights above, and below, the water surface of the Hudson River. This presents a risk to mariners who may become entangled in the anchor cable system if they transit too close to the crane barge.”

The Tuesday crane mishap caused several collisions and three minor injuries as drivers braked and swerved, local and state police said.

The crane was a new machine on the jobsite and equipped with a 121,000 lb. vibrating hammer, driving piles for the new span into the river bottom, said TZC president Terry Towle.

“We’ve driven thousands of these pilings,” Towle said. The cause of the accident is being investigated, and Towle said he suspects “it’s a problem with the crane, (or) it’s a problem with the hammer, it’s operator error.”



Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.