A Tappan Zee Bridge With No Transit?

Earlier this month, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino joined State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Senate Transportation Committee Chair Charles Fuschillo to call for a speed-up of the state’s study of replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge and adding transit to the I-287 corridor. His suggestion for speeding it up is a dangerous one: Drop the transit.

The project envisions a new, wider Tappan Zee Bridge; some highway widenings; a rail line connecting Manhattan with Rockland County, and a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that would include buses running in dedicated lanes across the corridor from Suffern to Port Jervis, and branching off of the corridor to destinations north and south. But according to the Journal News, Astorino suggested that the state just replace the bridge and engineer it so that transit “could be added later.”

Delaying the bus rapid transit system would be a losing proposition for the region. A BRT system would bring fast, frequent transit across the corridor for the first time. It would carry over 50,000 riders throughout the I-287 corridor daily and connect economic centers such as White Plains and the “Platinum Mile” of office parks with residential areas, regional destinations, and existing rail lines. The need for such a system has been underscored by recent press reports describing how the Platinum Mile has lost tenants to urban centers with access to transit.

BRT wouldn’t break the bank, either. According to a presentation given by NYSDOT last year, the bridge and highway portion of the project will cost $8.3 billion, with the BRT system costing as little as $1 billion. Most of the transit cost comes from the $6.7 billion Rockland-Manhattan rail line. Postponing the prohibitively expensive rail portion and canceling unnecessary highway expansions, such as some of the proposed truck “climbing lanes,” are sensible ways to cut costs and streamline the study. But it’s essential that a replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge be accompanied by a BRT system that brings effective transit to the corridor on day one.

State officials haven’t yet determined how to pay for the Tappan Zee replacement. In fact, NYSDOT doesn’t have a capital program for construction projects beyond summer 2012, and state leaders will soon have to start a conversation about how to fund a new one. Replacing the Tappan Zee and adding transit to the I-287 corridor should be part of that discussion.

12 Comments on "A Tappan Zee Bridge With No Transit?"

  1. As long as the design does not preclude transit, the design is stage able and transit can be added.

    An unacknowledged design flaw is the bus-way being only a single lane in each direction; instead it should be two lanes per direction and hence convertible to being a truck-way once rail is added.

    Anyone complaining about transportation funding needs to pull back and look at the wider picture of the continuing mega boondoggle of the Pentagon and the (cigarette protectionism) drug war.

  2. Denis Byrne | July 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm |

    It is time to build a bridge crossing that can support all modes of transportation, including passenger and rail freight as well as bicycle and pedestrian crossings at this location. Whether some features such as rail freight could be added later, and run busses in the short term, nothing in the design should preclude those rail features from becoming a practical reality within a decade. The entire Northeast US has a rail bottleneck and there is no easy way for trains of any sort to get across the Hudson north of the NJT crossings and no freight bridge until you reach the Albany (Selkirk) region. If you want to get trucks off the roads and improve the air quality and flow of traffic in the region, you have to dream big or nothing of substance will be accomplished.

  3. Clark Morris | July 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm |

    Since rail is going to be on the bridge anyway, eliminate BRT and use rail in the I287 corridor and route it through White Plains downtown. Using rail as the trunk with buses as the feeder is more economical and will get higher ridership. Also buses that connect with the rail line will connect with each other.

    Unless the bridge is built so that the rail line has only 1 percent gradients, freight is a pipe dream.

  4. Manhattan Man | July 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |

    We should build it with Transit on it. Because the cost of introducing transit will cost a whole lot more if we need to do it after the fact.

  5. I wonder if it would be possible to retrofit the existing Tappan Zee for bus and rail transit and build a roads only brand new bridge next to the old one. Or, do the reverse: fix up the current bridge for cars, and build a new bridge for trains and buses. Either way, the new bridge would be much less expensive if it only had to include one mode on it. I just don’t know if retrofitting the existing bridge would be more trouble than it’s worth.

  6. Jeeze, what a Luddite. It makes more sense to drop the automobile option than the transit option.

    BRT is stupid too. At the very least, there should be an LRT service, especially if there is going to be dedicated local transit “lanes” that cars can’t use (not that LRT precludes sharing lanes with cars…).

  7. Too bad money and imagination are in short supply; imagine even a light-rail system connecting Rockland County to White Plains and then on to Stamford, creating a sort of transit beltway for the northern suburbs and connecting four Metro-North lines.

    If we really want to dream, it could even be integrated with a new light-rail/streetcar system for both White Plains and Stamford to help fix their downtown office park settings and move their massive amount of workers more effectively.

  8. This is complete crap. Too much damn red tape. Crossing that bridge everyday and hitting that bottle neck in Nyack all the way to Palisades mall drives me crazy. A 4 lane highway won’t fix that bottle neck. Light rail or bus system won’t work. No one even uses the TZX. My mother told me when we moved to Rockland in 88, people were still talking about replacing that bridge. We need another Robert Moses. I’ve lost hope in anything getting done in NY State. Its been 10 years since 9/11 and there’s barely any progression, The 2nd avenue line is taking forever, a bridge connecting Long Island to CT will never happen and so forth.

    Why hasn’t anyone proposed a bridge from the Palisades Parkway in Northern Jersey or even Orangeburg in Rockland into Westchester connecting to 87, Saw Mill or Cross County? It would alleviate passenger car traffic on the GWB and TZB for people who work in lower Westchester or Manhattan. No one makes dreams happen anymore. The baby boomers that are wealthy clearly are about making their pockets fatter.

  9. Agreed. One would think that after 911 that the authorities, particularly the feds would appreciate the need for additional potential evacuation routes from Long Island.

    Yet look at how the planning of the private initiative for a 3 tube vehicular with room for rail tunnel connecting I-287 and Rt 135 stalled in the wake of the media circus over then NY Gov. Spitzer’s being “Client #9 of an “emperor’s Club’ catering to politicians- with no mention of Clients 1-8 or 10 and higher).



    And look at all of the transportation “advocacy” organizations that pretend that improving non-vehicular travel demands neglecting anything else transportation wise, while saying nothing about the ruinous war budgets, particularly that cigarette mercantilism scheme known as the war on drugs. They love to report about removing freeways, but somehow are incapable of reporting upon innovative ways of harmonizing freeways with the local environment to everyone’s benefit, as done say recently in Madrid, Spain.


    BTW- was not TSTC speaking differently a few months ago, calling for scaling back the project, but without any mention of stage-ability?


  10. Just a stupid idea.

    The Bayonne Bridge was built 80 years ago…with the promise that a rail line would be added later. Yea, right. We’re still waiting for that one.

    If trains are not put on the Tappan Zee when it is replaced, it will never happen.

  11. Leaving off transit seems like a highly retrograde move. Most of the bridges or other chokepoints internationally carry more people per ‘lane’ of transit than per lane of cars… in the case of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia for instance, the rail line carries more people per hour at peak than the 7 lanes of auto traffic combined. I’ve seen similar, though lower figures for many busways – typically the single-lane busway carries the same number of people per hour as 3-4 lanes of regular traffic. So there would seem to be a strong efficiency argument for transit as part of the corridor, especially from the get-go when commuting or other travel habits are forming (or can be shifted after a closing/re-opening of a major structure).

  12. Peter Smith | August 22, 2011 at 8:52 pm |

    BRT is much more transit than allowing walk or bike access.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.