In an effort to get money flowing to important infrastructure construction sites, the Obama Administration announced this week that they would “fast track” a series of near-ready projects, and included among those is our own Tappan Zee. The 56-year-old bridge, well older than we would all like, has long been the subject of replacement studies, and most of those called for some combination of railroad tracks and dedicated bus lanes in order to improve transportation across the Hudson River. Now, transit is off the table.
As LoHud.com’s Khurram Saeed reports today, the Tappan Zee replacement project will not include mass transit in its current iteration. To lop $10 billion dollars off the price tag, the fast-tracked span will not include rail lines or bus lanes. While engineers will leave space for such upgrades in the future, that’s rarely a guarantee for future funding or construction work.
Advocates recognize the importance of moving the replacement bridge project from the study phase to reality, but they bemoaned this move as an opportunity lost. “We’re missing a grand opportunity here,” Kate Slevin of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said. “The whole idea was to reduce congestion and provide a focal point for development for the Hudson Valley region. Commuters are still going to be stuck in traffic unless there’s an alternative. You’re basically doing nothing for congestion.”
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef echoed this charge. “You can’t just throw a bridge down there and say we’ll build the rest of it later,” he said.
The ultimate issue is one of price. Under New York State’s expensive proposal, a true multi-modal replacement would cost $16 billion. Of that total, the bridge would clock in at $6.4 billion with $1.9 billion set aside of highway improvements while transit costs would run to $7.7 billion — $1 billion for the bus rapid transit lane and $6.7 billion to run a rail line from Suffern to Tarrytown. The feds will instead throw in a little over $5 billion, and we will once again make the wrong decision with respect to the Tappan Zee Bridge. Funny how history just keeps repeating itself.