A multitude of pro-transit voices dominated last night’s hearing on the state’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project.
In a scene similar to Tuesday’s hearing in Rockland County, Westchester residents and elected officials called for transit to be included in the new bridge’s design. It was standing room only at the Marriott, where more than 500 people came to view draft bridge designs and provide comments. Here are a few of them:
- Westchester County Executive Astorino reinforced his staunch support of designing and building a bridge that accommodates transit. Otherwise, he said, “we may be building a scenic parking lot over the Hudson River.”
- New York State Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who represents parts of Westchester, said that the “state never saves money by putting off an essential expense.”
- Westchester County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky, whose district includes several riverfront towns, indicated that the state must find the money to build transit on the bridge now in order to take advantage of today’s construction costs and low interest rates. Legislator Shimsky represents Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, and Greenburgh, all of which passed resolutions in support of transit on the Tappan Zee.
- Westchester County Legislator Alfreda Williams, whose district encompasses Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow in the Tappan Zee footprint, said that it is “deplorable…to not include bus rapid transit in this day.” Even adding it later, she said, would subject residents to four or five more years of air, soil, and noise pollution.
- Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell expressed his disappointment at the state’s choice to move forward with a new bridge without transit.
Several speakers highlighted the very short DEIS comment period, pointing out that 45 days is the minimum amount of time required by law. Riverkeeper lambasted the comment period’s brevity, and the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic commented that a state response to various Freedom of Information Law requests indicated that materials would not be available for four weeks, which is well after the March 15, 2012 comment period closure. Tri-State has received a similar response.
While construction workers spoke in favor of building the bridge because of the jobs that would be created, little attention was given to the fact that transit manufacturing, maintenance, and operations jobs would last well beyond construction if transit were to be included on the bridge. Not only would transit create more jobs for Hudson Valley residents, it would connect people to workplaces on both sides of the river.
Tri-State argued that New York State is shortsighted to plan a Tappan Zee without transit. Without it, our region would get more of the same—another costly transportation project that encourages our dependence on oil, invites traffic congestion, contributes to air and water pollution, encourages sprawl, and isolates communities.
Two Lower Hudson Valley advocacy organizations backed up Tri-State’s position.
Scenic Hudson pointed out that, “contrary to the goals of the [Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy] Act, the preferred alternative will likely encourage continued auto dependency.”
The Westchester Chapter of the New York League of Conservation Voters said that not putting transit on the bridge would “lock local communities into reliance on this automobile-only infrastructure for the foreseeable future and would fail to achieve important quality-of-life goals, including relieving congestion and improving air quality in the communities surrounding the bridge.”
The state must respond to these and other comments in its Final Environmental Impact Statement. With frustration growing about the DEIS’ unsubstantiated projected transit costs, insufficient alternatives analysis, incomplete environmental review, and brief public comment period, New York has a lot of explaining to do.