Tappan Zee Bridge / I-287 Project Moves Forward

Two public sessions sponsored by the Thruway Authority, Metro North Rail and the Department of Transportation were held in White Plains and in West Nyack in December.

Speakers brought both the public and various interested parties up to date on where this massive project now stands relative to completion. Six scenarios have been selected out of the 150 original suggestions that were recorded several years ago and these six were presented to the public. A proposed DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) will be completed over the next two years and will eventually lead to a “preferred alternative” and then, to a final document known as the FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement). From that stage, a Site Plan and eventual rebuilding of the corridor will begin. River Journal has begun running a six part series about the project, written by Maureen Morgan.

Several major decisions have already been made. One of the key issues was to drop the idea of a tunnel or series of tunnels going across the Hudson carrying trains or freight or cars. Several reasons were given for the tunnel elimination. First, evacuation and emergency responses would be more difficult in a tunnel. Next, there would be significant disturbance in the Hudson itself during the building process. Additionally, large vent buildings blocking views would have to be installed, and actual tunnel construction would be, in itself, very risky.

It is expected that from the time of completing all DEIS questions, the entire project could be finished in 2015. At this juncture, it looks like the most usable variation could be a new bridge slightly to the North of the existing bridge with bi-levels for commuter rail and bus traffic coming into Tarrytown. What seems to have caught public fancy is either a light rail or commuter rail system running across the county from the Nyack side to Port Chester. Access to the existing Metro North lines would be built and what is called a “single seat” ride from Rockland and Orange counties would go through a new station in Tarrytown down to Manhattan using existing Hudson Line tracks. Single seat simply refers to not having to transfer from train to train.

Experts from all three transportation authorities felt that light rail or a commuter line would greatly reduce car traffic over any new bridge structure. What was left open at this meeting was the air quality issue and truck traffic increases.

The timetables now set forth will include public meetings for at least another two years, followed by a 3-5 year construction period which will obviously be disruptive to existing traffic and existing businesses. Until recently, only the MTA and The Thruway Authority were involved in this project. But because of the regional impact of intertwined transportation systems, the NY Department of Transportation has become involved. The current meetings were extremely timely since an extended period has passed since any public discussion concerning this subject has taken place. Getting public support, particularly with air quality and traffic issues being key, will be absolutely necessary if a new bridge and attendant facilities are to be built at all or on time.

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