The Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Corridor project hit a major milestone this morning, when NYSDOT publicly recommended that the Tappan Zee Bridge be replaced, that a bus rapid transit (BRT) system run through the I-287 corridor between Suffern and Port Chester, and that a new commuter rail line be built from Suffern to the Tappan Zee Bridge, where it would connect with existing tracks and run to Grand Central Terminal in NYC.
The announcement, which came at a press conference at the study team’s Tarrytown office, received praise from TSTC and other advocates. The full corridor BRT/Rockland-NYC commuter rail combination is projected to attract more new and total transit riders than any other combination the team considered: 79,900 average weekday riders, with 31,200 of those being new riders not diverted from other transit systems. These and other updated transit ridership projections are listed in two studies, released today, which detail the study team’s justifications for recommending a replacement bridge with BRT/commuter rail and a bicycle/pedestrian path.
The estimated cost of the project is $16 billion — $6.4 billion to replace the bridge, $2.9 billion for bus rapid transit, and $6.7 billion for the commuter rail line. The BRT service would begin operation on “day one” of the bridge’s opening, according to NYSDOT Commissioner Astrid Glynn, but the commuter rail line might not, depending on the construction schedule and whether sufficient funding was available. Glynn said that project design could begin in 2010 with construction starting in 2012, if the team stuck to an “aggressive schedule.” Needless to say, the study team does not have a good track record when it comes to timeliness.
There are still a number of questions about the project, funding paramount among them. Commissioner Glynn told reporters that the Tappan Zee study team would release the results of a three-year-old financial study in mid-October, but she said the study would only describe a “menu of approaches” to financing and that the state was working to find a “financial advisor” who could help the state develop a funding plan potentially including private investment. According to the Journal News, NYSDOT had picked Merrill Lynch as this “financial advisor,” but the firm became a casualty of the national economic crisis and was sold earlier this month. The study team also has not identified who would operate BRT in the I-287 corridor.
Public information sessions on the plan will take place at the end of October in Westchester, Rockland, and Orange Counties. Ideally, the team won’t disappear from public view afterwards. The Tappan Zee project is too important and has too many stakeholders to be designed in the dark. Though the team’s selection of a transit alternative was wise, and appears to be the result of a comprehensive process which took stakeholder contributions into account, it was announced four months behind schedule with virtually no explanation of the delay.
Each session will run from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm.
- Westchester County, October 28: White Plains High School, 550 North St, White Plains.
- Rockland County, October 29: Rockland Community College, 145 College Rd, Suffern.
- Orange County, October 30: Central Valley Elementary School, 45 Route 32, Central Valley.
Image: From Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Corridor study team’s “Transit Mode Selection Report.”