Meet Jamey Barbas, the woman in charge of building the new TZB

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Project Director Jamey Barbas gives us a tour of the newly paved Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Peter Carr/lohud

It doesn’t get old for Jamey Barbas.

The project director for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, she’s worked on reconstructing the Williamsburg Bridge, refurbishing the Bear Mountain Bridge and also has renovated and built bridges as far away as Portugal and the United Arab Emirates.

And now, in a field known for its dearth of women, Barbas is about to put another major project milestone on her resume with the new, $3.9 billion Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge about to hit the home stretch.

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“Is there any wood to knock on?” Barbas said with a laugh when asked if everything has gone smoothly so far. “There’s lots of little things (to still work out). Everything needs to be orchestrated to work perfectly.

“We’re hoping for some good weather … not too many rainy days, and we can finish,” she added.

Barbas — who works for the Thruway Authority and with the Tappan Zee Constructors, the contractors tasked with designing and building the new bridge, to ensure the project is running smoothly — took a contingent of reporters and photographers from the Journal News/lohud.com out onto the bridge’s Rockland-bound span recently to explain the finer points of the project ahead of the opening.

 

That early August morning, crews were working on paving the span. A temporary Jersey barrier had already been set up and will serve as the divider between what would be the east-bound lanes and what would be the west-bound lanes.

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The span is 96 feet wide. Each lane will be 11 feet wide, as it is on the Tappan Zee Bridge and the new bridge will feature the same small shoulders.

Barbas said the contractor paving the bridge was using doing more paving on this project than they usually do in a year. The project had to bring in three companies to provide the waterproofing.

“Even though you see all the major structures here, it looks like it’s finished, there’s all these smaller things,” she said, referring to everything from striping to light testing to getting the electronic messaging signs up and running. “Obviously, the systems have to work.”

A Columbia University-trained civil engineer, Barbas joined the project in 2015 after serving as senior vice president at Louis Berger, a $1 billion firm providing engineering, planning and management services. With 30 years worth of experience, the Thruway Authority tapped her due to her experience working on bridges and building in cold weather.

 

The last big project Barbas had worked on was the $1.7 billion, 100 mile AutoRoute 30 in Quebec, outside of Montreal between 2006 and 2011. She has also worked on projects in Maine and New Hampshire.

When she joined the project, crews had begun installing girders and road decks on both approaches and the Thruway Authority had recently announced that the opening of the first span would be pushed back from December 2016 until this year.

And while the opening later this month is a big milestone, the tough work is ahead.

Barbas said crews will have to build the on-land approaches to the bridge, finish the second span and demolish the Tappan Zee Bridge simultaneously.

The Mario Cuomo Bridge project is set to be finished in its entirety sometime in 2018.

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“When we have to orchestrate the new bridge, tie-ins, with removing the old bridge it becomes complicated with scheduling,” she said. “Really, that’s the new challenge.”

Twitter: @coynereports

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