Home MTA Politics Barely a nod to transit in Cuomo’s State of the State

Barely a nod to transit in Cuomo’s State of the State

by Benjamin Kabak

Nice bridge. Now where’s my train?

During his State of the State address yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised a New York State transportation initiative. “It is big, it is bold, it is beautiful,” he said. “We did it in one year, instead of talking about it for ten.” He was not, of course, talking about an effort to better prepare our subway system for the next major storm or a push to realize a badly-needed transit expansion. It was, of course, about the Tappan Zee Bridge, made all the more galling because this unnecessary $3-$4 billion won’t have dedicated transit anything.

From Cuomo, this lack of attention to the New York City region’s transit needs is hardly anything new. Throughout his time as governor, he’s shown nothing more than a tepid embrace of rail-related projects and transit needs. The current silence from Albany on the vacancy atop the MTA and the lack of urgency behind finding a replacement for Joe Lhota speaks volumes.

This year, though, Cuomo had an opening and an opportunity to take a problem by the reins. The transit network is vulnerable, and a panel Cuomo assembled had, just days before his speech, issued a report calling for a bus network, system hardening and increased investment in transit. Instead, his 300-page pamphlet on the state mentions the MTA just once:

The following measures should be taken to make our transportation systems stronger in the face of future storms. With federal assistance, these measures can and will be taken by the MTA and other State agencies and authorities to harden our transportation systems against future threats:

  • Flood-proof subways and bus depots with vertical roll-down doors, vent closures, inflatable bladders, and upsized fixed pumps (with back-up power sources);
  • Mitigate scour on road and rail bridges with strategically placed riprap and other steps;
  • Replace metal culverts with concrete on roads in flood-prone areas;
  • Providing elevated or submersible pump control panels, pump feeders, and tide gates to address flooding at vulnerable airports;
  • Install reverse flow tide gates to prevent flooding of docks, berths, terminal facilities, and connecting road and rail freight systems, and harden or elevate communication and electrical power infrastructure that services port facilities; and
  • Upgrade aged locks and movable dams to allow for reliable management of water levels and maintain embankments to protect surrounding communities from flooding.

He did not mention financing issues, fare hikes or the debt bomb. He did not mention congestion control, environmental concerns or rail or bus expansion. He also didn’t even discuss a way to pay for any of the few upgrades he has proposed. Instead, he promised to avoid any tax increases and will instead go, hat in hand, to the federal government for a hand-out while building up the upstate road network.

For as much as Cuomo wants to push upstate development, the truth remains that New York State’s economy is powered by New York City, and New York City’s economy, as we have seen in the Sandy aftermath and as we knew beforehand, is powered by a robust transit network and infrastructure investments. Yes, it’s going to cost money to protect and maintain our subway system as new 21st Century challenges emerge, but if Cuomo wants to convince us of his grand progressive vision for New York State, then he has to be willing to tackle those challenges head on.

Just because transit was absent from the State of the State doesn’t mean nothing will happen. Cuomo still has the opportunity to appoint a strong and forceful transit advocate to head the MTA, and he has the power to push through financing measures. We can’t afford inaction, and we can’t afford to ignore the problems and recommendations. Waiting until next year, next time, will be too late, and the state executive has to lead.

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Patrick January 10, 2013 - 9:45 am

Fuck Cuomo… ’nuff said

Nathanael January 16, 2013 - 9:51 am

Cuomo’s concept of “upstate development” is also worthless, lost in the 1950s.

Upstate is having a marvellous resurgence in specialty agriculture. As far as I can tell, Cuomo cares not at all about promoting and assisting our organic farming, wine, cheese, honey, maple syrup, etc….

AG January 16, 2013 - 6:47 pm

Why is the Tappan Zee in the wrong place? It is right along the White Plains to Stamford corridor. Ppl from Rockland and Orange work in those places in high numbers. Any further south and its too close to the GWB… and further north and it’s too close to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. The location is not wrong… not having mass transit on the bridge is what is wrong.

AG January 16, 2013 - 6:50 pm

in fairness to Cuomo (who i don’t like) he has done things to help promote the wine/dairy/yogurt industries in the state. and he has continued the groundwork started under Pataki to make Upstate NY a nanotechnology and semi-conductor major player. Those won’t replace all the industrial jobs… but they will be high paying and add tax revenue.

BrooklynBus January 10, 2013 - 9:46 am

Does anyone know why the Tappan Zee was built to only last 50 years and who made that decision? Certainly very short sighted when most NYC bridges are older than that and are still going strong, and the Verrazano is approaching 50. There is no talk of rebuilding any of those bridges although many have undergone rehabilitation projects.

Larry Littlefield January 10, 2013 - 11:03 am

Robert Moses and Governor Dewey I believe.

They built it cheap to make up for how long it is. It is long because they didn’t want to put it further south and share toll revenues with New Jersey and have the Port Authority control it.

The could have connected the Thruway with the New Jersey Turnpike as a single road, and had a shorter bridge to (for example) Yonkers. But then you’d have to travel through New Jersey to get from New York to New York. Stupid pride.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 11:11 am

Wasn’t there a material shortage at the time too? Korean War and all. I got the impression they wanted to build something fast to catch the wave of the future, the windshield perspective.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:33 pm

And that’s also why we have all of the abandoned SAS tunnels up and down 2nd Avenue.

Bolwerk January 11, 2013 - 12:48 am

I think that was more the 1970s fiscal crisis.

Someone January 11, 2013 - 7:43 am

Yeah, but also because of the Korean War. The SAS engineers hardly had enough money to even begin SAS because of that.

BrooklynBus January 11, 2013 - 11:47 am

It was Mayor Wagner who diverted Second Avenue funds starting in the late 50s to maintaining the 15 cent fare because he didn’t want to hurt his chances at re-election. He gambled correctly because he was elected two more times and no one realized te impact of what he was doing. The information was either not reported or buried on page 35 of the New York Times. You couldn’t just go to Second Avenue Sagas to learn that.

Then I believe it was around 1967 when voters approved a second bond issue for the Second Avenue Subway. I’m not sure how that money was spent but that was the money that was affected by the fiscal crisis, not the bond issue from the early fifties.

After that, most subsequent bond issues were defeated by voters, but somehow the state was able to sell bonds anyway without bringing the issue to a voter referendum after that. Laws must have been changed.

Bolwerk January 11, 2013 - 3:36 pm

That was a local initiative, no?

The state never constrained its own spending.

BrooklynBus January 10, 2013 - 11:20 am

I thought that Robert Moses had nothing to do with the Tappan Zee. I don’t recall reading anything about it in the Power Broker. By the late 40s wasn’t he strictly involved in city matters?

John January 10, 2013 - 1:42 pm

You’re right. It was just Governor Dewey and the (then) newly created New York State Thruway Authority.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 2:02 pm

I thought that was common knowledge in these parts. Yup, they built the bridge right outside the Port Authority’s radius of control, which I believe was itself driven by bond covenants.

By the way, not having a bridge between the GW and the Tap is just part of the devices in the regional torture chamber’s arsenal for its luckless citizenry.

The reactionaries at NPR did a recent story on it.


lawhawk January 10, 2013 - 11:37 am

Materials shortages and the need to complete the lower portion of the NYS Thruway. Location was decided to be just outside the sphere of influence of the PANY/NJ.

Most structures have an intrinsic lifespan – some can be engineered with longer lifespans by overbuilding certain components or building in redundancy.

But more critical to the TZB is the fact that it was designed to handle a certain amount of traffic, and it’s been handling more than twice that level for more than a decade now and there’s no sing that traffic will abate.

al January 10, 2013 - 11:44 am

The older bridges have had rebuilds over the years. The Bklyn Bridge had its rebuild when they converted trolley and El structure into car lanes in the 50’s. The Queensboro had the upper deck conversion from El to 4 traffic lanes in the 40’s. Both had more recent rebuilds too. The Verrazano is in the middle of a capital renewal program too.

BrooklynBus January 10, 2013 - 1:17 pm

I understand all of this, but for the TappanZee, rebuilding parts of the bridge needing repair are not being considered, only an entirely new bridge. When you rebuild an existing bridge, you don’t replace everything.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 2:04 pm

The most amazing example of a rebuild, which no one seems to notice is the Williamsburg. On that one, the City DoT lieterally replaces all the supports under the Manhattan-side road deck on a bridge that remained in service. I’m still in awe of that one. You have a 100 year old bridge with 10 year old pillars under it.

Stephen Smith January 10, 2013 - 4:25 pm

My understanding is that they could easily repair it in place, but that Cuomo wants to widen it and have it be his “legacy.” Hence, the new bridge.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 4:29 pm

My understanding is that the ongoing cost of repair is less than amortizing the borrowing cost of the new bridge.

Of course, that doesn’t contradict your understanding.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 5:13 pm

New bridges are safer. If you get the chance, drive down Delaware Route 1 and go over the Roth Bridge over the C&O Canal. The Roth is a beautiful, cable-stayed span, and get this: NYers get your cameras out, the bridge actually has inside and outside shoulders! Amazing!

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 5:17 pm

So you want to spend a lot of other people’s money so you can enjoy an aesthetic bridge with shoulders?

I guess you have standards, but I’m not sure what they are. :-\

Miles Bader January 10, 2013 - 7:25 pm

I guess you have standards, but I’m not sure what they are. :-\

From what he’s posted in the past, I’m guessing “moar lanes moar cars!1!”…

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:32 pm

“The bridge actually has inside and outside shoulders! Amazing!”

No, it’s a waste of money and precious space. You only need ONE shoulder, even in the newest bridges. The outer shoulders could be turned into a bike lane or a walkway, and the bridge could be more functional then.

John-2 January 10, 2013 - 9:02 pm

I still like driving the old U.S. 13 bridge. No shoulders, but no toll, either (though the state of Delaware has made getting to it from Route 1 southbound a pain in the arse)

Bolwerk January 11, 2013 - 12:51 am

Wait, C&O Canal? In Delaware? The C&O runs from DC to Cumberland, Maryland.

Do you mean the ICW? Or Chesapeake and Delaware?

Someone January 11, 2013 - 7:44 am

Chesapeake and Delaware.

Eric F January 11, 2013 - 9:37 am

My bad, I knew it was a canal at least, I give myself half a snap.

“The outer shoulders could be turned into a bike lane or a walkway, and the bridge could be more functional then”

Please drive the bridge and tell me it makes sense to ahve a bike lane on this thing. If anything, there could be a bike lane over the older bridge over the canal which has a much less steep grade. The bidke lane on the Tappan Zee is similarly idiotic. That bridge is like 3 miles long, no one but Lance Armstrong is going to be biking over it.

Someone January 11, 2013 - 9:50 am

That bridge is like 3 miles long, no one but Lance Armstrong is going to be biking over it.

Well, there are going to be places to stop and rest, right?

BrooklynBus January 11, 2013 - 11:50 am

The idea to build a new bridge predates Cuomo. It also has one thing to do with not inconveniencing motorists while it is being built and space is available.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 9:48 am

That really shows how anti-transit NY is those days, in a time when the nation’s largest transit system needs expansion.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 2:09 pm

It’s being expanded (hint: check out the name of this blog!)

Someone January 10, 2013 - 4:11 pm

I know that, but the only real “expansions” are the 7 subway extension, SAS, and ESA (none of which are major projects).

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 5:15 pm

Those aren’t major projects??!!

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:28 pm

No! None of them are new lines. They are simple expansions of existing lines (7, Q/T [okay, the T is new, but it won’t be phased in until Pase III is complete], LIRR City Terminal Zone).

Alex C January 10, 2013 - 9:25 pm

The 7 extension ended up losing the 10th Ave stop and is now an extra stop at a soon-to-be-defunct convention center. The 2 Ave Stubway adds three stops to give UES folks their own ride into Midtown without having to share a subway with people in The Bronx and Harlem. East Side Access is nice, but still kind of sucks since they couldn’t find a way to just use the already-there lower level at Grand Central. That’s a total of four new subway stops and an extra couple of terminal tracks at GCT, at a cost of billions of dollars and ten years. That’s pathetic.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 9:33 pm

The 7 train would still connect to Manhattan West, which would attract lots of people. It would be a one-stop extension, which makes the extension not major, but a highly-used stop nonetheless.

TP January 10, 2013 - 11:57 pm

Oof, as much as I don’t disagree that some Upper East Siders would prefer not to “share a subway with people in The Bronx and Harlem” you know the Lex Ave line is overcrowded during rush hours and Phase 1 will greatly improve things along that corridor, along with enabling UES’ers to get across to B’way without a transfer. The UES actually has some of the most densely populated blocks in the country, despite its reputation as being quiet and genteel. Besides, the true snob UES’ers don’t live far east. The schmucks living on 2nd and 1st Aves aren’t the super wealthy.

Alex C January 11, 2013 - 12:10 am

Oh, the East Side definitely does need a subway line. It’s just a let down that as it is, it’s essentially a shuttle for UES. The line not getting to 125 despite most of the tunnel work already being done is infuriating.

Bruce M January 11, 2013 - 2:12 am

What about us schmucks on York and East End?

Someone January 11, 2013 - 7:46 am

What about having light rail on that side of the island?

AG January 13, 2013 - 2:24 am

the javits is anything but defunct… it’s actually one of the highest performing convention centers (meaning the amount of days a year it’s booked)… which is why the industry was against Cuomo’s half baked idea to let someone build a huge convention center/casino at aqueduct. He got the message – which is why you’ll notice in the new address he is now only calling for casinos upstate.

as far as the other projects…. they are all useful.

John-2 January 10, 2013 - 9:57 am

Part of the Tappan Zee’s problem seems to have been to underestimate the eventual commuter volume on the bridge — when it was built, it was seen more as the way to get Thruway traffic between New York and Albany across the Hudson and into the Central Valley before you ran into the higher terrain around Bear Mountain. Tbe bridge as built and modified is breaking down due to the amount of vehicles it’s forced to carry of people just commuting into and out of the city from Rockland County and the lower Catskill region.

The irony, of course, is by not including a rail option this time, they’re making the exact same mistake in building a bridge that — if the areas on the west side of the Hudson increase in population in the future — may again be ill-suited to handle the volume of traffic (and any passenger rail component’s cost can be offset by allowing the line to be used for freight during off-hours and tolling that traffic across the new T-Z. As long as the toll doesn’t exceed the fuel, time and labor costs to sent cross-river freight the additional 220 miles up to Albany and back to get across the Hudson, the railroads will pay to cut their trips into the NYC and Southern New England markets).

BrooklynBus January 10, 2013 - 10:50 am

But I heard that it was built to only last 50 years. Was that incorrect? Don’t you think that the future volume on all bridges was underestimated when they were built?

Someone January 10, 2013 - 11:11 am

When the TZB was built, it was predicted that fewer and fewer people were going to live in the NYC area in the future. I guess the people who guessed that were wrong, so at this rate it only lasts 50 years.

BrooklynBus January 10, 2013 - 1:08 pm

I don’t see the connection. Wouldn’t most of the Tappen Zee traffic be local? What percentage would actually be destined or originate in NYC. Seems to me it would be less than 50%, probably 30. And if the City’s population would have declined as they thought, the population in the suburbs would have dramatically increased putting a greater strain on the Tappan Zee, not a lighter strain. Something does not add up.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 11:17 am

I’m pretty sure that was the expected life of the bridge according to engineering and accounting principles, a more or less accurate assumption going by what they knew at the time. The bridge was expected to last about that long, and it would be worth replacing at a similar cost (adjusted for inflation) 50 years later. Of course, “50 years later” is a few years behind us now, and the bridge is expensive to maintain – but not as expensive as replacing it at a much greater cost than it cost build, which is essentially what Cuomo is trying to do.

John-2 January 10, 2013 - 11:28 am

The problem, durability-wise, seems to have been with the state cutting corners on the causeway section of the bridge on the west side of the Hudson, not as much with the main ship channel span closer to Tarrytown.

The main span’s supports were made of concrete and metal (since you really don’t want the thing to come down if it’s accidentally hit by an oil tanker headed for Albany), but the low-level section just has wooden supports that just weren’t made to handle the types of traffic volume the bridge has gotten, since it’s not more of a commuter span than it is a crossing for long-distance trips. Combine that with the natural wear and tear on wood (and the tiny marine creatures that bore into the stuff) in an area where the tides swap salt and fresh water twice a day, and you end up with a 3 1/2 mile long bridge in need of about two miles of new road supports.

John-2 January 10, 2013 - 11:38 am

That should be “is now more of a commuter span” instead of “is not”.

Also, doing a quick Google search, here’s a couple of paragraphs from a City Journal article from three years ago on the bridge’s causeway section woes:

But the Tappan Zee’s planners were responsible for some of the bridge’s woes. In 1950, engineers warned that on the Rockland side of the proposed bridge, bedrock began 300 to 800 feet below sea level. Anchoring the bridge so deeply was beyond the technology of the time, so the state settled on an untested design that “floated” above bedrock in softer soil and water—mud, really—on top of “sofa pillows” and wooden pilings, as the Times described it. But Mike Anderson, who runs the state Department of Transportation’s task force on the proposed Tap replacement, points out that those pilings are consequently so near the river’s surface that they’re “exposed to the ecosystem and the air in low-tide circumstances,” which makes them vulnerable to decay. Thriving marine life in a cleaned-up river has the potential to set up housekeeping in the wooden supports—though the Thruway, which inspects for such things, says that it hasn’t happened yet. The supports also don’t meet modern earthquake standards.

Moreover, officials cut corners, building parts of the bridge “thin and light” to save money, the state noted in a 2009 report—a strategy “not conducive to long-term durability.” They also didn’t want to incur the expense of dealing with New Jersey politics, and so they didn’t seek a narrower crossing for their bridge across the state line—even though such a crossing would mean a shorter bridge and a lighter load for their untested design. By 1960, only five years into the bridge’s operation, cheap finishes, which let moisture seep into key components, were putting the structure at risk.

So there were several problems that a new bridge can solve and at least one big one it can’t — because of the route of the Thruway, the new bridge also has to be located at what’s basically the widest section of the Hudson, though they do have the option of making the new bridge fully elevated over the river, which would mean repositioning the road to come directly off the Palisades, as the NJ side of the GWB does (which would also make it more conducive to rail traffic, since the trains having to climb the Manny B is one of the main causes of the stress problems that affect that bridge).

BrooklynBus January 10, 2013 - 1:14 pm

Couldn’t only the portion that is falling apart be rebuilt? It seems that would be a lot cheaper. The only advantage I can see for a totally new bridge is if it included rail, and that is not part of the plan. Hopefully, there will be a provision for it in the future.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 2:11 pm

The bridge is functionally obsolete. It should be replaced with a larger model.

Contra, they could do what the city DoT is doing on the Belt Parkway, which is replacing functionally obsolete causeway bridges with brand new functionally obsolete causeway bridges with just as many lanes in order to make us all move to Texas. But that would be silly.

Patrick January 10, 2013 - 2:41 pm

How many damn lanes you want the Belt Parkway to freaking have. 5-8 lanes is enough. BTW, those 3 spans the City is replacing needed to be replaced. One of them was close to being a I-35W event. In my opinion, the Belt & the Cross Island should be rebuilt to Expressways…

BrooklynBus January 10, 2013 - 4:05 pm

The new Belt Parkway provides for no increase in capacity, still three lanes in each direction, although traffic has increased ten fold since it was expanded from four to six lanes in 1950, having originally been built in 1940 with four lanes. The new bridges between Knapp and Cross Bay should have been built for 8 lanes to accommodate widening of the road where there are no service roads or convenient alternatives because Seaview Avenue bridges were never built.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 4:12 pm

Or maybe 10 lanes, since traffic should actually increase in the future.

Patrick January 10, 2013 - 4:28 pm

Unless that also includes raising overpasses to allow trucks, STFU. Eight is enough & some areas CANNOT be widened because it runs right next to protected land

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:28 pm

Or maybe you can build another roadway above the existing roadway. That would work.

Patrick January 10, 2013 - 7:48 pm

I can think of a few reasons a road deck wont work:
• AirTrain & the JFK area
• Overpasses, both road & rail
• The current layout at the ends of the Parkway
• Reworked on/off ramps that would be cumbersome in space constrained areas (e.g. Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island)
• The protected land issue, AGAIN

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:27 pm

Or maybe a new tunnel underneath…? There has got to be some alternative.

Patrick January 10, 2013 - 8:48 pm

Sorry, but the way the area around the Belt Parkway was developed over the years makes widening, tunneling & road decks impossible. Unless you start EDing people out of their houses, & thats gonna be a court nightmare

Someone January 10, 2013 - 9:37 pm

Destroy the Belt Parkway and build a new superexpressway along the ROW.

BrooklynBus January 11, 2013 - 11:59 am

There is an alternative. The biggest bottleneck is the part between Knapp and Cross Bay without service roads. The only alternative is Flatlands Avenue which means a 20 minute diversion. Initially there were plans to connect Avenue U to Seaview Avenue and then to Gateway Drive and Seaview Avenue in Gateway Center. (That’s why it’s also called Seaview Avenue.) That would have provided a convenient detour minimizing te need to widen the road, but the NIMBYs blocked those bridges.

That’s not to say there are no delays on other portions of the Belt, but that one is the easiest to correct without widening te road.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 5:17 pm

What?? The Belt is only three lanes in each direction. It should be at least four on each side through Brooklyn and Queens, especially Queens.

Patrick January 10, 2013 - 5:33 pm

5-8 lanes total, Dumbass. Queens has the light-controlled NY-27/Conduit Avenue so STFU. Once again, it CANNOT be widened in the East New York (Spring Creek), Canarsie, Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island & Bay Ridge areas because of both Protected Land & VERY limited available ROW. Who lives next to the Belt: Me or You? (I live in Starrett City, an area with absolutely no trains & 2 POS bus routes that get packed before it even leaves the area)

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 6:28 pm

Is the B13 near there?

Patrick January 10, 2013 - 6:35 pm

@Bolwerk: The B13 & Q8 only come as far as Erskine Street/ Gateway Mall, A Mile Away

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 6:52 pm

Ah, ok, just curious. Saw it on Wyckoff the other day, and I’ve seen it (somewhat) over in your area.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:18 pm

Bolwerk: Speaking of buses, the MTA should raise the funds to extend the Q8 to over there (certain other bus routes in the other boroughs should be extended, too).

lawhawk January 10, 2013 - 4:36 pm

The Belt Parkway bridge projects are meant not to increase capacity, but to rebuild to current safety and eliminate bottlenecks as well as address the fact that they are functionally obsolete (and at least one requires constant monitoring because of damage).

The bridges being rebuilt will have breakdown lanes and improved merges where applicable. They will be realigned to improve sightlines, the Mill Basin drawbridge is being replaced by a permanent span with sufficient MHW clearance, improved channels for boating below, and separated areas for pedestrians/bikers on the adjacent pathways.

More on that here.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 5:18 pm

The Belt is just a mess and should be expanded. Obviously, no one here or at the DoT thinks so, but that project is a ton of work and money for no relief. What a waste.

John-2 January 10, 2013 - 11:13 pm

All of the city’s waterside routes (the Belt, the FDR Drive, Harlem River Drive and Henry Hudson Parkway) are maxed out on width. Even in an area where there theoretically is room for additional lanes, as with the Henry Hudson, life is too short for the poor city or state officials who’d have to argue adding two new lanes by taking away 20 feet of Riverside Park.

The Belt, even when it has parkland on the shore side, is in the same situation — the legal fight to add 20 additional feet of pavement for a fourth lane in both directions would be brutal. Best chance to widen any highway in NYC would be if the deep tunnel Gowanus project ever saw the light of day, and given the obstacles there for an 8-10 lane underground road, I don’t even think that new trillion-dollar platinum coin could pay for it.

Eric F January 11, 2013 - 9:39 am

Probably the way to do it is to put a cover over it, so you have a widened highway but you expand the park and add easrier access to it. The same thing should be done with the FDR on the lower east side. Make it 4 lanes each way, with standard wider lanes, but lower it and cover over it so everyone on the LES gets a park at their doorstep.

Nathanael January 16, 2013 - 10:01 am

Move the Thruway south.

AG January 13, 2013 - 2:26 am

it was because of cost… the “kick the can down the road” scenario that still plays out in politics

BrooklynBus January 13, 2013 - 9:49 am

Imagine if Moses was concerned about costs. All his bridges would have needed replacement by now and I wouldn’t even want to think what the MTA would be charging to cross them. $25 on the Verazzano perhaps, when it’s reconstruction would be completed? He deserves more credit than he is given. People now only remember his bad points like he was an SOB and perhaps a racist.

AG January 14, 2013 - 6:30 pm

well to an extent you are right… but the bridges that predate him were also built to last. all bridges need overhauls… but the Tappan Zee was specifically built to only last 50 years. scary.

Christopher January 10, 2013 - 10:17 am

What’s really crazy is that he doesn’t seem to understand that economic development of upstate IS tied to transit and transit oriented, walkable redevelopment of their cities. Expanding rail and transit throughout New York State is the future. States who don’t have nearly the rail history that we do recognize this and are planning for it. Just off the top of my head I can think of planned or expanded rail projects in Texas, North Carolina, Virginia is going gang busters to expand rail, California, Tennessee. Cuomo is stuck in the past on this issue. And that’s hurting NY state.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 10:41 am

Yeah, this is probably true. New York just isn’t rising without moving beyond the third world option of cars! cars! cars!, which arguably one of the key policies that caused it to contract in the first place.

Still, I bet almost nobody has learned that electing a “car guy” is stupid.

Alex C January 10, 2013 - 12:02 pm

There is no “car, train, bus and tram guy” to elect. Never was and never will be in the US. The car will always win.

Nathanael January 16, 2013 - 9:55 am

Oh, there was in the past. Someone elected Mayor Hylan. Someone elected the politicians who funded the Harrisburg-Philadelphia Main Line.

There will be such politicians again, and very soon. Just elect someone under the age of 30, okay?

Kai B January 10, 2013 - 11:10 am

Surprised there was no talk about the 0.5 billion allocated to upstate “high” speed rail.

Alex C January 10, 2013 - 12:03 pm

I find it hilarious that our definition of “high-speed” rail is slower than the European and Japanese definition of conventional rail. USA! USA! USA!

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 12:10 pm

Our term was probably invented by car guys.

Alex C January 10, 2013 - 9:31 pm

When they first floated the idea of investing money in high-speed rail in 2009 or 2010 (didn’t happen thanks to GOP), it was either Joe Biden or Barrack Obama that said something along the lines of “imagine traveling from city to city at 100 miles per hour…” and I nearly had an aneurism. It’s as if all of Americas politicians literally don’t understand the concept of “not-car” and have zero knowledge and/or understanding of transit and infrastructure; explains why we’re $2 trillion behind in infrastructure repairs in this country and keep building more 8-lane highways to nowhere.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 11:31 pm

Well, we should be realistic. First step: reliability. Get average speeds closer to 100mph and have trains arrive when expected. Especially in the northeast and Midwest, that would help a lot. With most stops 50-150 miles apart, average speeds like that mean travelers really get a bonus over both driving and flying.

HSR comes next. It’s more complicated because it gets more political: get operating costs under control (pisses off unions) and get regulations changed (pisses off pols and every imaginable anti-rail lobbyist).

But I agree with you, too. People simply don’t understand how it’s done elsewhere. The cure for such ignorance is people/politicians who pay some attention to best practice elsewhere, and try to bring it home. Sadly, we’re really lacking that, but it appears to me the few people who comment here who do understand that tend to have extensive experience in other countries – for example, Miles or Alon (cf. Justin Samuels’ comment from earlier today).

Someone January 11, 2013 - 7:49 am

That seems to be a unrealistic plan with all that’s going on in the economy right now. There’s no funding for any more high speed rail. Sadly, politicians (and NIMBYs) want what is best for them, even if it brings inconvenience to other people.

Bolwerk January 11, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Maybe partly true, but they could work on the regulatory side. It doesn’t cost much money to make TGV-style trains legal. Hell, it saves it.

Nathanael January 16, 2013 - 9:55 am

Kai: this is because Cuomo DOES NOT CARE.

Yes, it would be popular upstate to learn that we will have faster rail service to NYC. But Cuomo DOES NOT CARE.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 2:07 pm

There are some massive and incredibly expensive rail additions occuring right now. As we speak! Look into east side access, the second avenue subway and the 7 train extension. Those aren’t being financed with Dunkin Donuts gift cards. The cost of those projects exceeds most states entire tranport budgets for a decade or more. You can’t erase them just be cause you really, really, really like trains.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 4:16 pm

None of these are major expansions of the subway. If you want major expansions, look at Beijing Subway: they opened 40 subway stations within a single day in 2012, along four lines.

Patrick January 10, 2013 - 5:02 pm

Stop freaking comparing NYC to Beijing. You love Beijing so much, JUST MOVE THERE

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:30 pm


Evan January 11, 2013 - 8:06 pm

Personally, I think it’s a valid comparison. Each subway system should be considered on its own merit, and should not be dismissed just because it’s in a foreign country. It’s not like the city hasn’t done such large expansion before: look at the first subway built and opened in October 1904 – and built from scratch! Currently, we celebrate and pat ourselves

If those workers and engineers from that time were alive today, they would hang their heads in shame and dismay at how we’ve become so incompetent.

AG January 13, 2013 - 2:29 am

Beijing today is comparable to NYC in 1904… and that’s the point. If China functioned like the US – Beijing wouldn’t be building as it is.

Epson45 January 10, 2013 - 7:45 pm

Beijing Subway is really not great after all, it is still congested and not many of riders are happy if you read the interwebs.

Miles Bader January 10, 2013 - 8:22 pm

I’ve read complaints that the Beijing subway network is not well designed (e.g. poor coverage and layout of transfer points for efficient travel). Whether that’s true or not, I dunno…

But one thing is very clear: NYC’s subway (/ surface / elevated rail) network has been shamefully neglected, underfunded, and underdeveloped for ages and ages. NYC looks poor in comparison not only because other cities do things so well, but because NYC has done things badly.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:32 pm

The Beijing metro system’s congested because only 16 of the city’s 27 planned subway lines are actually in service.

But think about it: Beijing only had 3 subway lines 10 years ago. That’s an improvement. New York City had 26 subway lines 10 years ago, up from 24 now. I agree, New York City fails to maintain its subway system; Beijing has all the new gadgets (CBTC, platform screen doors, elevators, etc.) which would be neglected by the MTA if built in NYC.

Miles Bader January 10, 2013 - 8:54 pm

BTW, by “underdeveloped” I mean also building new lines.

NYC has built way too many urban highways and way too few new subways (etc) in the last 60 years… It’s quite shameful.

Someone January 11, 2013 - 8:01 am

It really is quite shameful. The MTA has built fewer stations in the past 50 years than the Beijing subway (which I am just doing for comparison, not because I like it) has built in less than a year. Though, traffic is worse than ever on NYC’s highways, too.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 4:32 pm

Tragically, you’re probably at least mostly right* for once. Like Cuomo $5B Tappan PenisZee project, the “megaprojects” shouldn’t be built, at least not the way they’re being built now. “Mega-” only meaningfully refers to the expense, not the amount of service being provided.

Meanwhile, really eminently affordable opportunities get squandered.

* Except your failure to understand why the Tappan Zee is the most useless of all these megaprojects.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 10:46 am

I get it. Fiscally responsible. Future-oriented. Fixes stuff. Good government. Propaganda like this makes Cuomo exceedingly delusional.

Can we have Paterson back now?

Nathanael January 16, 2013 - 9:56 am

Or Spitzer?

Here’s Andrew Cuomo’s Plan To Prepare NY For The Next Giant Storm | ImpressiveNews January 10, 2013 - 12:17 pm

[…] Ave. Sagas, a blog about New York’s subway system, criticized Cuomo’s “lack of attention” to New York City’s transit needs, pointing out the 300 page plan mentions the MTA only […]

LLQBTT January 10, 2013 - 12:58 pm

But isn’t just the case that the governor of NYS has historically focused on upstate by let’s say 80-20 (Upstate v ‘Downstate’ i.e. NYC)? It’s another 1 of these imbalances that needs correction because the last time I checked, NYC is part of NYS.

Here’s an example. We pay the same NYS tax in NYC that is paid elsewhere in NYS. However, we get NO police service from the NYS Troopers. We should get a credit for this

Kai B January 10, 2013 - 10:16 pm

I lived upstate for many years. While there, everyone complained that it was NYC got all the attention and all the money. The later is obviously false (NYC puts in much more than it receives), but “attention” would take some study to measure talk time or something.

Bolwerk January 13, 2013 - 11:07 pm

At least insofar as state spending is concerned, NYC (at least the region) does get a lot of attention. But the attention goes to the inflow to NYC, which is of course enormous, not the outflow from NYC.

But, well, the whole “it doesn’t pull its own weight” delusion ranks right up there with crime and amorality as misleading or plain untrue tales of urban existence.

Nathanael January 16, 2013 - 9:59 am

Up here, we get the New York State Police Troop C scandal. (Look it up.)

Yeah, I know, you have similar scandals in the NYPD.

My point is that the state government has actually been terrible for upstate in recent decades. It talks a good game, but really the Republicans misrepresenting upstate have spent most of their time feathering their own nests, rather than providing anything useful to their constituents.

In the “old days” the priority of the state government was linking upstate to downstate — the Erie Canal, the New York Central Railroad, the NYS Thruway. This has gotten lost.

g January 10, 2013 - 4:06 pm

I wonder if it would be possible to rehab/convert the old TZB for rail use once the new one opens. I’m sure they’d need to tear the superstructure a new one but since it wouldn’t be under any time constraint one would think it would be a lot cheaper/easier. I have no idea if the grades are even workable for this though.

In addition to MNRR service it could restore freight access to Long Island without doing the absurdly expensive Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 4:14 pm

It would be possible but with major modifications. Rail lines could be built over the old TZB only after the new one is complete, and even then, there would have to be rail lines on both sides of the bridge. Also, the bridge would have to be maintained constantly. There isn’t that much of a chance that the old TZB could be used for train service, but it could be possible.

g January 10, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Obviously the approaches would need to be altered but the substructure is essentially sound IIRC. Replacing major components and rebuilding the deck for rail should be doable and with no pressure to open to daily road traffic a hell of a lot less expensive than overnight work. A flyover to connect to to the Hudson line and connections to the west of hudson services.

I would think this to be least expensive option to reach the west of hudson areas for commuter rail and restore some freight access.

Eric F January 10, 2013 - 5:20 pm

The Old Tap will be demolished. Part of the reason to kill this thing is because escalating maintenance costs render keeping it around too costly. It will go no matter what. The new spans are designed to allow future transit.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 6:50 pm

That’s not a reason at all when the costs of amortizing a new bridge, one that probably won’t even have rail, exceed the costs of maintaining the current structure.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 4:34 pm

Cuomo apparently has a massive woody not just for building something new, but making sure there is no trace of the old. Being irrationally anti-rail is important to Cuomo, perhaps.

marv January 10, 2013 - 7:00 pm

Built in obsolence is good planning – not bad. A large part of the cost of any project is debt service. If one excessively overbuilds, the public is paying interest for unneeded capacity. Uncertainty is also a reality of life and it is better to build a facility which will function for a reasonable period of time (50 years is not exactly a short time) and then be able so build new structure which can then take into account the needs and technolgies of the later time.

The problem is not that the Tapanzee is/was a 50 year bridge. This is actually good as we now the the oppurtunity to build what we needed. The problem is that what they are replacing it with. (It should have both more traffic lanes and tracks (both passenger (commuter and light rail) and freight.)

Facilities should be built in such a way that replacements can be built without interfering with the operation of the existing structure. This appears to be the case here.

As an aside:
*I agree that the belt parkway should be widened into a 5 lane wide (each direction) expressway to give commercial traffic a second/alternate route from the I-95/ Cross Bronx nightmare for NJ to Long Island traffic.

* and that a bridge located between the Tapanzee and the GW would be highly desirable and could replace lanes on the GW Bridge which would be converted to rail use as originally intended.

*Don’t knock shoulders – they are not an esthetic consideration but are rather a function of safety and assuring capacity in the case of accidents which do occur. (Are we not building a bridge to serve the users?) The question like all else is how much function/safety is added and at what cost.

Nathanael January 16, 2013 - 10:00 am

The Tappan Zee is simply in the wrong place. Why has nobody considered relocating it?

Nathanael January 16, 2013 - 10:00 am

Ahem. Relocating the bridge, not the body of water. 🙂

Bolwerk January 16, 2013 - 4:30 pm

Give me an N.

Give me an I.

Give me an M.

Give me a B.

Give me a Y.

AG January 16, 2013 - 6:48 pm

Why is the Tappan Zee in the wrong place? It is right along the White Plains to Stamford corridor. Ppl from Rockland and Orange work in those places in high numbers. Any further south and its too close to the GWB… and further north and it’s too close to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. The location is not wrong… not having mass transit on the bridge is what is wrong.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines January 11, 2013 - 8:49 am

[…] Ben Kabak Weighs In on Cuomo’s State of the State […]


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