Early Word on Tappan Zee Planning Workshops Comes Back Positive

Local officials who have attended the first three transit-oriented development workshops organized as part of the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 corridor project tell MTR that the sessions are worthwhile and have influenced how their municipalities will respond to the massive transit and highway project.  So far, the study team has held workshops in Tarrytown, Nyack, and White Plains which were facilitated by the Regional Plan Association, Project for Public Spaces, and Reconnecting America.

During each two-day workshop, local and county officials, business owners, and homeowners learned about successful TOD projects elsewhere in the country, and made field visits to and engaged in visioning exercises around sites that could benefit from TOD. The training covered issues like complete streets, parking, best practices of development near bus and rail stations, and financing.  “There’s so much in the training content that every community is struggling with,” RPA’s David Kooris told MTR.  “It’s about understanding how to transform regional transportation investment into local gains.”

Local officials praised both the content and the presentation, saying that they had been introduced to new tools and case studies, and that the quality of the presenters was high. Tarrytown Village Administrator Michael Blau cited the tools and concepts introduced as most useful, while others said that meeting with study team members had jump-started their response to the Tappan Zee project.

For example, White Plains Traffic Commissioner Thomas Soyk said that the workshop “provided a platform to push forward” the city’s plans to develop the northwest corner of its central business district as an “access point to downtown” and determine how that area would be served by transit. “For White Plains to have any potential for development going forward, we need to make the best use of our transit access,” Soyk said. Marie Lorenzini, the village of Nyack’s liaison to the Tappan Zee project, said that the Nyack session had prompted the village to form an intra-municipal task force with Clarkstown and South Nyack so that the three municipalities could coordinate their response to the project.

The study team will not finalize the location of new bus rapid transit and commuter rail stations until completion of a “Tier 2 transit analysis” at least 3 years from now, which proved frustrating to some participants.  “It’s a good, well-founded program,” Lorenzini said.  “But there are no major definitives with which [the presenters are] working in regards to sites.”

Michael Anderson, the project manager for the Tappan Zee/I-287 project, said in an e-mail that at this point, the purpose of the sessions was to build capacity by giving local officials “tools, resources and hands-on exposure to leading-edge land use and planning techniques.”  He said he hoped the sessions would “encourage the municipalities to become proactive, and to be prepared to engage with the agencies” when more definite transit plans were in place.

So far, that seems to be happening, which is one reason Tri-State, local elected officials, and Hudson Valley groups had spent years calling for the study to include cooperative land use planning. But it is not clear whether this type of land use training will continue as part of the Tappan Zee project or expand to other state transportation projects.  Earlier this year, the Paterson administration announced the release of several Hudson Valley planning grants through the state Smart Growth Cabinet, and NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stan Gee has said that the agency is committed to a “smart growth and livable communities agenda.” Yet one of NYSDOT’s most promising smart growth efforts — a $25 million corridor planning program — was stripped from the agency’s capital plan because of budget constraints.

Each of the towns will receive a summary report from their session, as well as a final report that extracts lessons from all eight sessions. Five more transit-oriented development workshops are planned for the coming weeks.  The Tappan Zee project team will also be holding public open houses on the project next week — June 28 in White Plains and June 30 in West Nyack.

3 Comments on "Early Word on Tappan Zee Planning Workshops Comes Back Positive"

  1. Clark Morris | July 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm |

    Rail is still superior to bus for this corridor. BRT can not get critical mass or be superior to rail on 15 minute headways Suffern to I95 via White Plains with bus feeders. Rail can get the nodes to develop. BRT will be overrun by cars. It also will have a high operating cost.

  2. T Sevener | July 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm |

    It is critical to have RAIL from the beginning in order to provide
    the great loop of Rail connectivity for the New Jersey/NYC area of
    a rail line all along Route 287.
    This would connect ALL of New Jersey’s North to Central Rail Lines
    potentially from the NJ Coast Line and then all the way to
    Following #287 and on to #87 across the Tappan Zee bridge would
    allow immediate rail transit options through the great belt of
    Corporate Office Parks in the West of New Jersey AND also allow rail
    connections from the Western points of New Jersey and not just travelling all the way East to come back West again.
    This is desperately needed for our 21st Century Green Transit in the
    age of Peak Oil and climate change. It would allow New Jersey, the most densely populated State and more densely populated than China to switch to public transit and get thousands of cars off the roads.
    Anyone who has driven #287 knows how bad the traffic gets at certain points.

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