This Friday, January 23, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey will be hosting the first of seven public hearings to solicit public feedback on ten alternatives to move freight across the New York Harbor.
The reason for the study is the current system, which is untenable. The lack of existing freight track infrastructure in downstate New York east of the Hudson River means freight must come in on a truck or barge from New Jersey or via trains that are rerouted 140 miles north to Selkirk, NY and then make their way back south toward New York City.
Source: Port Authority DEIS
CURRENT PROBLEM: SELKIRK DETOUR
More than 90 percent of freight crossing the Hudson River is moved in trucks. As has been noted time and time again, large commercial trucks are a significant contributor to roadway congestion, poor air and water quality, and the deteriorating conditions of regional infrastructure. There is also a significant social cost, as trucks affect roadway and pedestrian safety and quality of life in residential communities.
There are ways to reduce our region’s overreliance on and the impacts of truck freight while improving the overall system of moving goods into and out of our region. Alternatives to the current system are being studied in the recently released Cross Harbor Freight Program NEPA Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Five of the “rail tunnel alternatives” being studied would create a direct connection across the harbor, allowing freight to move directly from New Jersey to Brooklyn and enabling goods to reach Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties by rail.
SOLUTION: RAIL TUNNEL DIRECT CONNECTION
This would be a significant improvement over the current system. Some of the rail tunnel alternative benefits are:
- reduced truck emissions, which pollute our air and contribute to increased asthma rates,
- project construction jobs,
- port jobs,
- protection of the current and future flow of goods, including the region’s food and clothing supply,
- safer roads, especially for pedestrians, and
- avoidance of costly repairs of roadway damage caused by large trucks (According to one report, road damage caused by a single 18-wheeler is equivalent to that of 9,600 cars).
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Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner | Photo: @SBRWA/Twitter
Non-profit leaders, agency employees, elected officials and their representatives came together in Albany this week to discuss the experience of four cities trying to convert urban freeways to more city-friendly boulevards.
The Urban Freeways to Boulevards Summit, co-hosted be the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance (SBRWA), of which Tri-State is a member, and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, brought together the cities of Albany, New York, Rochester and Syracuse to talk about lessons learned and possible strategies for making urban freeway conversion projects a reality.
Assemblyman Crespo kicked off the meeting by talking about the importance of the urban freeway conversion project in his district – the Sheridan Expressway – to improve health, quality of life and the economic vitality of the area. He was followed by representatives from each of the four cities:
The discussion that followed covered several points centered on the idea that New York State needs a new paradigm for how transportation projects are planned and evaluated:
New York State needs a process or protocol for the conversion of underutilized urban freeways: Cities across the state are re-imagining existing transportation infrastructure and exploring the ways to address changing mobility needs, lack of green space, housing needs and economic development. Yet, despite five cities (Buffalo’s Skyway/Route 5 is also exploring a conversion) exploring the conversion of freeways to boulevards, there is no clear state guidance on how to proceed with a planning process, what data to gather, the funding commitments needed, nor the tools available. Participants expressed a desire to remain connected to other cities to share information and to have a strong partnership with regional and central DOTs to advance such concepts.
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President Obama visited New York this week to call on Congress to act on his five year transportation funding plan, which would increase federal spending beyond current levels by $23 billion per year — a 44 percent increase. As the Highway Trust Fund plunges towards insolvency and with Congress expected to drag its collective feet, the President’s push is great news.
As MTR highlighted in an earlier post, federal transportation investments see the greatest economic benefit if they are directed to metropolitan areas. President Obama’s visit presented an opportunity to highlight the infrastructure needs of a region in need of serious transportation upgrades.
Investing in the infrastructure of the tri-state region provides incredible bang for the nation’s buck. New York is by far the largest generator of gross domestic product in the country. Its GDP of $1.335 trillion in 2012 nearly equals the nation’s second and third largest metro areas (Los Angeles and Chicago) combined, and, if it were an independent nation, it would be the world’s 13th largest economy.
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