The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) issued a statement urging boaters to use special caution when operating vessels in the vicinity of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
The bridge is in the midst of a multi-year repair and refurbishment project that necessitates the presence of work boats, many of them moored overnight in the immediate vicinity of the bridge. The on-going construction has led to the establishment of what is known as a Regulated Navigation Area (RNA), a designated area of the Hudson River within which vessel movements are restricted.
The existing RNA is being extended to an area 500 yards north and 500 yards south of the bridge. At all times, the Regulated Navigation Area is a “Slow, No Wake Speed Zone" and recreational vessels are restricted to a speed no greater than 5 nautical knots.
During periods of greater construction activity, which may pose the risk of imminent harm to boaters within the zone, all non-construction vessel traffic may be prohibited. Such a prohibition will be broadcast by the Coast Guard and restrictions will be actively enforced as the situation dictates.
The extension of the RNA is necessitated as a public safety measure for recreational boaters because the bridge repairs and refurbishment are entering a phase of greater activity as warm weather approaches. In the past few weeks, bridge contractors have installed an additional 16 mooring balls, devices to which work boats may be tied up. The devices themselves, with or without work boats moored to them, can pose a hazard to unwary boaters, especially those going too fast. In periods of reduced visibility – after dark or when there is fog or heavy rain – the potential hazard from speeding is even greater.
State and local law enforcement agencies also have jurisdiction in the vicinity of the bridge. Marine units from the New York State Police, Rockland County Sheriff's Department and the Westchester County Police Department are joining the Coast Guard in an effort to ensure boater safety.
Violation of a RNA is a federal offense with a significant fine as a potential consequence.