N.Y. bridge project will get transit––but not yet

Officials say adding transit to the Tappan Zee bridge replacement now would delay the opening

Transportation Management News The Journal News January 13, 2012
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Adding transit to a replacement in a major New York City-area bridge would set the project back at least two years, according to the Journal News.

 

New York State Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald told the Journal that adding a bus or rail line to open with the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement in Tarrytown would delay the bridge opening “minimally by two years” because of environmental reviews of new stations, including station parking areas.

 

With the basic bridge, designed to support buses or rail that could be added later, McDonald said she was confident construction would begin this year. The bridge replacement is expected to cost $5.2 billion.

 

“So far, we’ve met ... every benchmark we set out for ourselves,” she said.

 

The replacement is planned as two spans about 300 ft north of the existing 56-year-old Hudson River span. It is scheduled to open in 2017.

 

Many transit advocates and local officials want a mass transit system, most likely a specialized express bus service with its own lanes, to run the day the new bridge opens.

 

Veronica Vanterpool, associate director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, told the Journal that community opposition to the bridge without mass transit could delay the project even more than the two years. 

 

“We are building a bridge for the next hundred years; we should get it right,” Vanterpool said. “Designing the bridge for bus transit on day one doesn’t preclude construction from starting on the bridge. ... We’re not trying to delay or stop the project.”

 

Construction industry representatives at the meeting emphasized the need to begin building the bridge quickly to bring jobs to a tight market and to ensure safety for motorists in the 140,000 vehicles that cross it each day.

 

Discussions about what to build in its place, and how to develop the 30-mile transportation core from Suffern to Port Chester, have stretched on more than a decade. But in October, the Obama administration stepped in, placing the replacement bridge on the fast track with its plans for the basic bridge. It would feature four lanes plus a breakdown lane in each direction, with a bike and walking path on one span.

 

McDonald said the first draft of an environmental impact statement, which will delineate the replacement bridge’s impacts on the area, is due Wednesday.

 

She said the bridge would be built ready to accommodate transit at a later date. Bridge footings, for example, would be strong enough to hold a commuter railroad.

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