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CRH successfully tackled an urgent design change for one of New York State’s biggest recent infrastructure projects: the construction of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The team skilfully managed the delivery and placement of large amounts of specialty pavement, ensuring the long-term functionality of the new bridge and benefiting millions of people and businesses in the area. The job served as just one example of how CRH’s singular capabilities can solve complex problems on major construction projects.

(Photo credit: New York State Thruway Authority)

CRH Americas
Product Type(s)
Paving & Construction
New York, United States

Follow the Hudson River north of Manhattan, and the famed waterway eventually triples in width to nearly three miles (5 km). Across this vast expanse stretches a shining ribbon of steel, concrete, and asphalt. Soaring towers, each nearly 50 percent taller than the Statue of Liberty, rise from its centre, anchoring 192 cables that form a series of nesting triangles in a display of Pythagorean perfection. This is the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the longest in the Empire State and a vital economic artery for the Hudson Valley.

The nearly $4 billion structure replaced the aging Tappan Zee Bridge, which opened in 1955 with a designed capacity of 100,000 vehicles a day. By 2010, after several upgrades to handle increasing traffic, the old bridge was groaning under as many as 170,000 vehicles a day. To keep people and goods flowing through the region over the next century, the state of New York ordered a modern replacement to be built.

The new bridge was designed with two spans carrying eight lanes of general traffic, four emergency lanes, dedicated bus lanes, and a 12-foot bike and pedestrian path, making it one of the widest cable-stay bridges in the world at 186 feet (56 m). Construction began in 2013.

To ensure the bridge could stand up to the region’s harsh winters, the construction consortium ordered a design change in 2017 that called for a more durable and weather-resistant driving surface using huge quantities of a special asphalt mix on short notice. As the consortium in charge of the project evaluated the change, Tilcon New York, a CRH company, and other partners were brought in to determine the best approach. The team assessed the bridge deck condition and proposed a process to meet the new specifications.

The design change called for use of Rosphalt, a premium paving mix that is far more durable in cold weather and highly resistant to the grooves and deformations that degrade an asphalt surface over time. The challenge? No local supplier had ever produced or laid this much special mix before.

Between Tilcon New York’s involvement in the engineering process, its existing paving contract for the bridge, and its unrivalled Rosphalt production capabilities, the firm was selected as the only operation in the area capable of producing and placing the special asphalt in this quantity and urgent timeframe while overcoming the unique challenges. It also reflected how CRH, as the largest building materials business in North America, is uniquely positioned to solve large infrastructure and construction projects across the continent.

Delivering a special product on a short deadline without disruption

Paving the deck is one of the final steps in a bridge’s construction. It’s the metaphorical icing on the cake that ensures a smooth, safe ride for drivers as well as aesthetic benefits. The original bridge’s concrete surface often cracked and crumbled under winter’s icy grind, requiring frequent repairs and delaying traffic.

Rosphalt is ideal for sites with unusually heavy loads, places such as ports, racetracks, and airports. It lasts 3.5 times longer than traditional asphalt, meaning lower lifecycle costs and fewer closures for repairs. But Rosphalt also requires special preparation and handling. And paving both decks of the new bridge would require more than 28,000 tons of this premium specialty material – an unprecedented amount for any project here.

Tilcon New York wasted no time getting to work.

Creating an A-team to solve the unique challenges

The project posed unique engineering challenges around surface preparation, material delivery, roller changes, and safety. Rosphalt needs hotter temperatures and extra mixing time. The mix is produced at 450°F (232°C), about the same temperature needed to grill a New York strip steak. When placed onto the road surface, ambient temperatures can easily top 100°F (38°C), even in the middle of the night.

To produce the mix, Tilcon New York selected its batch plant in Riverdale, New Jersey, a facility with an output of 400,000 tons a year that had been part of CRH since 1999. (The plant has since moved to a state-of-the-art facility in nearby Totowa, New Jersey.) The last-minute design change also came amid the busy summer paving season. Tilcon New York already had commitments of 1 million tons of asphalt for other customers. But delaying one of the state’s signature infrastructure projects was out of the question. The team would have to deliver for the community while continuing to fulfil orders for existing customers.

To solve these and other challenges, Tilcon assembled a world-class team of cross-functional experts, including project engineers, a senior paving foreman, asphalt production and transport experts, and quality control. Plant personnel and equipment operators went through extensive training to ensure safety and quality when handling the special superheated mix. Crews used plexiglass shields, curtains, and fans to deflect heat and fumes. Rain posed another challenge. The mix was so hot that it would produce clouds of scalding steam if it came in contact with a rain puddle. For both quality and safety, surface moisture was removed with a blower truck and hand blowers.

Tilcon New York created and approved the job mix formula in just six weeks, well ahead of the eight to 10 weeks that is common for a project of this scale with multiple contractors, suppliers, and agencies involved in the process. The first test strip was placed just 16 days after the decision to include Rosphalt was officially finalised.

Every detail of the paving operation was mapped out with precision. Up to 1,200 tons of Rosphalt would be placed each night. In just over two weeks, Tilcon placed 14,300 tons of Rosphalt on the westbound span. That span opened to traffic in October 2017 while construction on the eastbound span continued. Upon completion of the eastbound span, Tilcon returned in September 2018 to place another 14,000 tons of Rosphalt.

The bridge was complete.


The Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge has accommodated a steady increase in personal and commercial traffic, as well as pedestrian and bicycle usage, contributing to the region’s economic growth. In 2018, its first full year of operation, the new span handled more than 28 million vehicles – 10 percent more than the old bridge – and is expected to top 30 million in 2023. It is capable of handling more than 50 million vehicles a year.

The new bridge’s more durable surface has also enabled growth in heavy truck traffic that is vital to the region’s economy. Rosphalt shows two-thirds less wear and tear than traditional asphalt. For the average driver, it means a smoother, safer journey with the prospect of fewer repairs and lane closures in the future.

Faced with an urgent design change to a signature infrastructure project, CRH rose to the challenge by bringing its leading capabilities to bear in safely delivering and placing unprecedented quantities of specialty pavement, on time and within budget, ensuring that the new bridge could serve millions of people and businesses in the region for decades to come.

Learn more about CRH’s capabilities and U.S. impact: CRH in the Americas.