Bridge Over Troubled Waters

For the past 18 months, a Rockland/Westchester citizens committee called "Concerned Citizens for Responsible Development" has been focusing on the NY State Department of Transportation’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Tappan Zee Bridge construction Alternative Plans.

imagesThe committee is beginning to conclude that new and additional transportation pressures are now developing state-wide rather than simply being limited to the Westchester/287 crossing route which is currently undergoing its DEIS completion at the moment.

Two very experienced local citizens, George Sherman of Nyack, a longtime NYC businessman, and Sherwood Chorost, a former Tarrytown Village Trustee, operate as the Co-Chairmen of the group. The organization has a number of leading citizens on its Board of Directors including Paul Feiner, Town of Greenburgh Supervisor, and Elyse Knight, Honorary Secretary of the Tappan Zee Preservation Coalition. Their Board of Advisors includes Actress Lorraine Bracco, Director Jonathan Demme and Nyack Mayor, John Shields, among others.

One of the main areas of concern for their organization is whether a tunnel can be better used to eliminate much of the truck traffic coming across the river or whether it should simply be assigned, as it currently is, to lanes coming across a proposed new bridge. To that point, there has recently been a strong suggestion put forward that a tunnel or a bridge somewhere north of the current Tappan Zee location might result in a shorter and less expensive route under the River. That, in turn, could even involve the Danbury/ New Haven complex, heading on up into the New England area. Such a route could also head South toward the Stamford/Norwalk area. What is concerning not only Chorost and Sherman, but many other area experts, is how to handle a rapidly expanding population pattern in this entire Northeast area. To simply develop the I-287 corridor with only a cursory look at future regional traffic patterns would be tantamount to sending good money after bad. Finally, at the moment there is no consideration in DOT planning, as to how to develop Stuart Airport and the Orange County rail lines that could go directly into Penn Station through a tunnel system somewhere near New York City.

Chorost and Sherman also raised the issue of what now amounts to a relative silence from the DOT as it has been adopting its DEIS and "Alternative" selections. Ordinary citizens and expanding businesses in Stamford, for example, have very little knowledge of the pressures that are developing in rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge. Furthermore, little has been said to the public about the advantages of a tunnel, since in actuality, a tunnel crossing the River has already been summarily ruled out by the DOT. Some say that the ruling was made far too rapidly given the possibilities a river-crossing tunnel could provide. In addition, there is a strong proposal for a tunnel being built to cross Long Island Sound, connecting at the Rye shore. To that point, many European construction companies are incorporating tunnels that will use clean air through much improved filtration, and are taking advantage of the current lower cost of structural steel developed in the last decade. Even the machinery used in tunneling has cut construction time, in some cases, in half. According to one leading expert who was called in to calculate costs, a tunnel system for the current project could now come in at a total of $9 billion less than the current estimate of $14.5 billion dollars. All this is in the face of traffic increasing from 130,000 vehicles a day to 300,000 a day within a short period of time.

If there is one pervasive thought which those closely watching the project have in mind, it is the fear that the scope of what is being planned is not currently broad enough to handle rapidly developing regional traffic problems. In a recent meeting held by the Citizen’s Committee, the suggestion was made that the Governor’s office may be the ideal authority to deal with a growing set of complexities. Most knowledgeable observers would be far less nervous if that high office became involved in an oversight capacity. To which Sherman and Chorost would quickly add an "Amen." For those wishing to either receive the Committee’s newsletter or e-mail information, those numbers are as follows: "Concerned Citizens for Responsible Development," George Sherman, President — Rockland Branch (845) 358-8364. Sherwood Chorost, President — Westchester Branch (914) 524-0002. E-Mail: CCRDrockwest@aol.com

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About the Author: Arnold Thiesfeldt