New Kosciuszko Bridge span opens to fanfare

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The celebrate the opening of the first span of the new Kosciuszko Bridge Thursday, New York State held ceremonies and a light show at the site to show off the bridge's architecture. The new Brooklyn-Queens connector, a $550 million project, is the first major bridge constructed in New York City in 53 years and is the city's first cable-stayed bridge.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode in style to officially open the new bridge.

"Welcome all to the new Kosciuszko Bridge. Now the old structure, 78 years old, did its job well but it is structurally and operationally obsolete and it has been for a long time," Cuomo said. "Building a bridge is not easy and it's not fast and doing it on time, doing it on schedule, doing it on budget means you have to work at it every day."

[Related: How do you pronounce 'Kosciuszko' and who was he?]

"It's about 30 feet lower than the existing bridge which is going to keep traffic moving at a good pace," assistant project manager Jessica Miller said.

Span 1 was set to open to commuters at 11:30 p.m. Thursday with three lanes of traffic heading each direction.

This summer the old bridge will be imploded. In its place, a second cable-stayed bridge will be constructed to serve 4 lanes of Brooklyn-bound drivers and a 20-foot lane for pedestrians.

The first bridge will then serve Queens-bound vehicles with five lanes.

"When the second span is finished, the delays will be reduced 65 percent," Cuomo said. "Think how much time and fuel is going to be saved."

Cuomo also hopes that its design attracts people. The bridge has an LED lighting system, which will coincide with the Empire State Building and eventually all of the other bridges in the city.