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.

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