At last week’s Stakeholder Committee meeting for the Goethals Bridge Replacement project, the US Coast Guard and Port Authority revealed that the new Goethals Bridge will dedicate one lane in each direction to buses and high-occupancy vehicles during morning and afternoon peak hours. The agencies are planning to replace the existing bridge with a six-lane span between Elizabeth, NJ and Staten Island, down from an original vision of a twin span with eight total lanes. (The current bridge has four lanes.)
As reported previously in MTR, the unusual “X” shape of the cable-stay supported towers opens up a space that can accommodate future bus rapid transit or light rail. In addition, the use of “transportation system management,” including signal timing changes, re-striping and the removal of on-street parking, has been proposed for the areas at either end of the bridge. There are no current plans to build out the center transit lanes, but it’s clear that the Port Authority hasn’t ignored transit and traffic management needs in the corridor. The agency should take this a step further by studying a bus/high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane that would let in single-occupant vehicles for an additional toll which would vary with the level of congestion and ensure free-flow traffic in the lane.
The plan includes an improved pedestrian and bicycle path on the north side of the bridge, although access on both sides of the bridge remains in question. Ensuring adequate access will require coordination with the communities on each side of the bridge, as those areas are outside the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard and the Port Authority. All the agencies were willing to say at this point is that walking and cycling connectivity will be addressed in subsequent stages of the design process.
The Port Authority expects the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the next required document in the environmental review process, to be completed in early 2009. The bridge could open to traffic by 2015.
This is not the only Port Authority project which will improve bus commutes and help accommodate future growth — others include an additional Lincoln Tunnel bus lane and expansions of the PA Bus Terminal and George Washington Bridge Bus Station.
Image: Port Authority rendering of new Goethals Bridge design.