The Future of the Hudson Valley

The debate over the Tappan Zee Bridge is a debate over the way Hudson Valley residents will live for the next 100 or more years. Residents, during the ten year long Tappan Zee planning process, created a vision for the Hudson Valley where people had choices in how to get to work, and move around their communities. One where transit offered a reasonable alternative to driving, and therefore streets were less congested and air clean to breathe. But now that vision is under threat. The Governor wants to cut corners and build a bridge without transit. A bridge without transit will be obsolete from day one, wasting over five billion dollars, and sentencing Hudson Valley residents to decades of traffic congestion, air pollution and no alternatives.

Tell the Governor and our representatives in Washington to help us find funding to put transit back into this project from day one. Sign the petition, or if you have a minute, write a letter and let them hear from you.

In this short film local officials and experts explain in their own words why transit is essential and why it needs to be part of the project from the start.

Better transit is essential to relieve congestion, assure mobility and improve quality of life in the Tappan Zee/I-287 corridor. A lengthy state study and public involvement process established that the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge must include a new bus rapid transit system connecting communities and businesses in Rockland and Westchester Counties.A 30-mile bus rapid transit corridor connecting Suffern to Port Chester is crucial to ensuring that the new bridge, I-287, and the economy of the Hudson Valley don’t become gridlocked.

Building a bridge with bus rapid transit will create more jobs now through construction, and in the future. It will provide a backbone for economic development in the region. Bus rapid transit is the most cost-effective and efficient way to connect the region’s workers to jobs.

We can’t afford to spend five billion dollars to build an obsolete bridge. The area’s residents came to the consensus through a series of public meetings that a new Tappan Zee needs BRT. Building a bridge without public transportation disregards the public’s wishes, and merely kicks today’s problems down the road.

Tell Governor Cuomo to put BRT back on the bridge today.

Support for a new bridge was always tied to transit

The past two weeks has brought a flurry of press coverage of the fed’s rejection of the State’s application for a massive loan to fund the Tappan Zee project.

It’s worth noting that beyond just the question of how the bridge will be funded, many of these publications are questioning whether without mass transit the costs of this project will now outweigh the benefits. For instance, the Nyack Villager says “The proposed bridge will tear down many of our neighbors’ homes, place nearby condos in the shadow of a giant bridge and still not solve our traffic problem.”

Newsday goes further with an insightful op-ed from Nicholas Dagen Bloom who writes “In both these counties, many citizens and most politicians realize that what seemed like outlandish planning concepts 20 years ago — mixed-use office parks or bus rapid transit — could be useful in building suburban affluence and stability in the future. The quick buck from the subdivision or highway contract are no longer the game in a highly regulated and increasingly complex suburban empire. Even the office park developers talk about mixed use these days. The state’s now discarded planning process for bus rapid transit on the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement was popular locally because it was going to help reshape Westchester and Rockland’s downtowns and office parks for the 21st century by making them more dense and walkable. The same cannot be said for the exclusive automobile/truck replacement bridge — it only moves vehicles faster, rather than represent long-term community planning.”

“Can anyone truly believe that five or 10 years from now — when this bridge is finally done, the construction workers have gone home, drivers are paying $12-15 tolls, gas costs $7 a gallon, and the congestion is no better on Interstate 287 — that the massive new Tappan Zee Crossing will be seen as anything but a white elephant?”

Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s associate director clarifies in her recent op-ed that transit supporters are not against the new bridge. On the contrary, they believe the region has much more to gain, including on the  jobs front both during construction and after if transit is a part of the project.

Bloom’s piece and several others serve as valuable reminders that if the original choices where to fix the bridge or build a new one without transit, residents might have opted for the first option, which would have been cheaper, and less disruptive to local communities. Residents and their elected officials wanted a new bridge because it came with the promise of mass transit, and with it possibilities for reduced congestion, more walkable communities and economic development in local downtowns. That’s the real bridge to more jobs and higher quality of life in the region.

Tappan Zee Passed Over for Federal Loan

The Tappan Zee Bridge was not among the projects short-listed to move forward for a federal loan that was supposed to be a key part of financing for the project. Yesterday, five other projects were invited to advance to the next stage of the TIFIA program and the Tappan Zee was not one of them. The state had applied for a $2 billion loan to help finance the new bridge.

Thruway Authority executive director Thomas Madison was quoted in March as saying “A big piece of what we hope will be the funding plan for the new Tappan Zee Bridge is to get a long-term, low-interest loan.” This latest development puts a new wrinkle in the Governor’s plan to expedite the project.

According to a spokesman from the U.S. Department of Transportation, “The TIFIA loan program is an ongoing process and the Tappan Zee bridge is one of the high priority infrastructure projects from around the country that has been chosen for expedited permitting and environmental reviews. We are currently compiling a reserve list of projects, including the Tappan Zee Bridge, that will be expedited if TIFIA receives more funding, but this depends on Congress providing the money. We are hopeful that Congress will provide additional funding. We also are encouraging applicants to reapply in the fall.”

Kate Slevin, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said in a statement that this delay in financing “provides a great opportunity for the state to improve the project by including bus rapid transit. With bus rapid transit, the Tappan Zee Bridge project will be better for the environment, create more jobs, and be better positioned for future federal loans.”

Advocates Weigh in on Tappan Zee

Several advocacy groups submitted joint public comments on the Tappan Zee Bridge draft environmental impact statement. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Good Jobs New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, NYPIRG and Transportation Alternatives are calling on the State to address serious questions and missing information in a supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The groups maintain that before the project moves forward, the public deserves a better understanding of its costs, and its impacts on our region’s development patterns, air and water quality, and mobility.

Read the group’s full comments.

Riverkeeper has also issued its own comments which point out several additional environmental and legal issues with the State’s DEIS.

Read Riverkeeper’s comments on the Tappan Zee DEIS.

The comments have created a buzz in the press but still no word on how the State will react.

Planners Urge State and FHWA to Put Transit Back into Tappan Zee

The New York Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association, a professional organization comprised of 1,200 practicing planners and policy makers in the New York area, part of a national organization that is 40,000 members strong, are blasting the Tappan Zee draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for it’s questionable traffic and cost estimates, the lack of transit connectivity, the missed opportunity to provide a transit corridor that would encourage smart growth and sustainable economic development in Rockland and Westchester.

The APA NY Metro calls on the State and FHWA to provide “at a minimum…priority access for commuter buses between the existing Palisades Center Park & Ride facility and the Metro-North Tarrytown station. Moving from west to east, this should include: 1) priority access from the bridge landing in Nyack to the Palisades Center 2) use of the “emergency access lane” on the bridge for bus operations, and 3) an access ramp from the new bridge down to the Tarrytown Station.” These short-term improvements would provide a foundation for a future, robust bus rapid transit (BRT) system that would serve both Rockland and Westchester.

Their comments go on to criticize the DEIS’s financial assumptions about the Tappan Zee project. APA NY Metro suggests that a “whole cost approach” would be more appropriate, taking into account the costs of adding transit at a later date, as opposed to in concert with the construction, and the costs of transit vehicle delays in the interim. APA NY Metro, like several other groups, is questioning the  “significantly higher than industry standard” costs that the state is citing for the BRT system and calls for a “detailed, itemized breakdown of the cost estimate.”

They also request that the state and FHWA substantiate the claims of the DEIS that this project will “improve mobility and reduce congestion” even without transit options, and question whether the project conforms with the State’s Smart Growth Public Policy Infrastructure Act.

In closing APA NY Metro urges the State and FWHA to reinstate provisions for commuter rail or BRT. Read their full comments.

League of Women Voters Call for Transit on TZB

The League of Women Voters of Westchester are calling on the state to include transit on the Tappan Zee from day one. In an op-ed published in the Journal News this weekend the League says “We believe it is crucial that rapid bus transit in the form of a dedicated eastbound and westbound lane be part of any new bridge from the start-up. Only by providing such an alternative to automobile traffic can we hope to avoid the traffic congestion, air pollution and double disruption that will otherwise occur if and when mass transit is put into place at a later time.” Read the full op-ed.

More Hudson Valley Communities Call for Transit on Tappan Zee

Map of municipalities that have passed resolutions in support of transit on the Tappan Zee as of 3-22-12.

Tarrytown and New Rochelle recently joined the growing ranks of municipalities including Yonkers, Dobbs Ferry, Wesley Hills, Greenburgh, Hastings-on-Hudson and Croton-on-Hudson, as well as the North Westchester Energy Action Consortium (members shown in blue) in passing resolutions in support of transit in the Tappan Zee project.

While the State moves forward with pile driving tests for the new Tappan Zee Bridge and the State Thruway Authority Director waxes elegant about the project, another two Westchester towns have passed resolutions calling on the state and federal government to restore mass transit to the Tappan Zee project. Orange County Executive Diana has also come out strongly in support of transit.

Tarrytown, the eastern terminus of the Tappan Zee, and New Rochelle joined the growing ranks of municipalities including Yonkers, Dobbs Ferry, Wesley Hills, Greenburgh, Hastings-on-Hudson and Croton-on-Hudson, as well as the North Westchester Energy Action Consortium that are calling for a 21st century bridge.

Orange County Executive Diana is adding his county’s voice in support of transit on the Tappan Zee. At a forum hosted by Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, the County Executive called current plans for a new Tappan Zee bridge foolish, and asked the Congresswoman to help convince the Governor to put mass transit back into the project.

The fact that Orange County, along with New Rochelle and Yonkers, two of Westchester’s largest cities, are calling for transit is particularly significant. Though these areas will not be directly impacted by the project’s construction, their leaders recognize the importance of including transit in this project to form a strong foundation for a system to address the region’s mobility needs both now and in the future.

State Senator John Bonacic has also written to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos endorsing the inclusion of bus rapid transit as part of the Tappan Zee project and encouraging the Majority Leader to include this position in the state’s final budget.

The State is accepting public comments on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement until March 30th, they can be e-mailed to: tzbsite@dot.state.ny.us.

Tappan Zee Public Comment Period Extended

WNYC confirmed yesterday that the US DOT has extended the public comment period on the state’s draft environmental impact statement on the Tappan Zee project. They will now accept comments through March 30th, giving the public an extra two weeks to review the hundreds of pages of the DEIS and submit comments.

Groups including Riverkeeper and elected officials including Nyack Mayor Jen Laird White had called for more time for the project’s review.

The state and the Federal Highway Administration both indicated that it will still take them until at least the beginning of April to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted in regards to their transit and financial analyses in the DEIS.

Meanwhile the state has already begun drilling to collect test samples of river rock and soil to prepare for the new bridge.

Comments can be emailed to  tzbsite@dot.state.ny.us or mailed to:

Michael P. Anderson
Project Director

New York State Dept. of Transportation
4 Burnett Boulevard
Poughkeepsie, New York 12603
Telephone: 877-892-3685

Tappan Zee Public Hearings Dominated by Calls for Transit

Rockland and Westchester residents and elected officials turned out in force to call for transit on the Tappan Zee bridge at two packed public hearings last week.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign blogs “the state must respond to their comments, [as well as the ones it receives in writing and via e-mail at tzbsite@dot.state.ny.us] in its Final Environmental Impact Statement. With frustration growing about the DEIS’ unsubstantiated projected transit costs, insufficient alternatives analysis, incomplete environmental review, and brief public comment period, New York has a lot of explaining to do.”

After the hearings Newsday published an op-ed calling for transit to be restore to this project saying “Transit has been a part of bridge planning for years, and when state transportation planners produced the new proposal without it, criticism erupted on every side, including from environmentalists and local officials. Better public transit across the span would give commuters from Rockland County better access to Metro-North trains and employment east of the river without boosting the number of cars pouring into Westchester.”

Read on for highlights from the public testimony and the press coverage of the hearings last week.

Continue reading

Dobbs Ferry, Yonkers and Greenburgh Call on State, Feds to Public Transit Back into TZB Project

Updated 3/6/2012 with the text of the Greenburgh resolution

While the state held the first of two public hearings on the TZB draft environmental impact statements in Rockland, Westchester cities and towns were busy taking action on the project.  Last night three Westchester municipalities joined the growing ranks of communities calling for transit on the Tappan Zee. Yonkers, Dobbs Ferry and Greenburgh all passed resolutions asking “Governor Cuomo, the New York State Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Authority to restore dedicated public transportation infrastructure to its long-held place in any and all plans for the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge.”

Both the Dobbs Ferry and Yonkers votes were unanimous. In Dobbs Ferry the Mayor and town trustees spoke passionately about the need for transit to protect the quality of life in their village and provide ways for future generations to get around. Trustee Donna Cassell pointed out that unless the Governor dedicates the emergency access lanes on the bridge to buses now, there’s the potential to open them up to motor vehicles in the future, and these vehicles would spill over to local roads, overwhelming the peaceful streets of Dobbs Ferry.

The resolutions, similar to the ones passed by Hastings-on-Hudson and Croton-on-Hudson also calls on other communities to “let their opinion be known to Governor Cuomo and the relevant agencies and representatives New York State and the federal government on this critical decision that will impact quality of life for decades to come.”

View the GreenburghCroton, Hastings-on-Hudson and Yonkers resolutions (all are pdfs).

Fun with Facts

The folks over at the Construction Industry Council have praised the Governor for expediting the Tappan Zee project and creating new jobs in the Hudson Valley as a result. While we agree with them, we stand with the growing number of cities and town in the region that are calling for transit to be restored to this project. Adding transit does not jeopardize these jobs, in fact, it will lead to more construction jobs in the short term, and more good jobs later to operate and maintain the system.

Now the Construction Industry Council is suggesting that mass transit is not justified in the I-287 Corridor. We take a look at some of the claims made on their site replacethetzbridgenow.org and whether or not they hold up…

Myth Truth
Commercial Traffic 45,000 trucks cross the bridge daily (33% of total traffic).(1) 5,000 trucks cross the bridge daily (5% of total traffic).(2)
Mass Transit Ridership Only people going to NYC need transit.(1) BRT would serve not only commuters going to NYC but also the hundreds of thousands of the people that the state studies show commute cross-county each day.(3)
Development Near Transit The reality is that the patterns of most Americans reveals in consumer survey after survey that the overwhelming majority of people prefer to live in a house with a yard, drive a car to work and for shopping. (1) “Within walking distance of transit, we’re seeing anywhere from a 40 to 200 percent price premium. The market is willing to pay 40 percent more to three times more.” Chris Leinberger, Brookings Institute Visiting Fellow and University of Michigan Professor. (4) As Americans increasingly choose to live near transit, the value of homes like this has plummeted — 60 percent since the year 2000.(4) A recent poll of Southern California voters conducted by FM3, a public opinion research firm, confirmed the trend: nearly two thirds of respondents (64 percent) would prefer to live in communities that are pedestrian friendly, rather than in conventional residential communities that require driving to stores and other businesses. The more compact housing typically developed near or as part of TODs could make those developments well positioned to be employment hubs.(5)

1) No Source Cited (but is seems likely that many of the numbers come from this blog which also gives no citations: http://community.machinedesign.com/forums/thread/29840.aspx)
2) DEIS pg. 4-4.
3) All study documents created for Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Environmental Review. http://www.tzbsite.com/tzb-library/study-documents/study-documents-index.html
4) American Public Media, Home Buyers moving closer to transit, http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/transportation-nation/home-buyers-are-moving-closer-public-transit (Feb. 24, 2011).
5 Urban Land Institute, Demographic Changes Mean Dramatic Shifts In Demand for California Housing: ULI Report Finds Imbalance Between Consumer Preferences and Existing Stock, Urban Land Institute