Pick Your Number: NYS Thruway’s Milstein Inflates Savings from Controversial Loan by 350%

Photo: Crain's New York

New York State Thruway Authority Chairman Howard Milstein | Photo: Crain’s New York

On Wednesday, despite widespread objection from advocacy groupseditorial boardslegislators and the regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) unanimously voted in favor of a $256 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to help finance New NY Bridge projects.

During the board meeting,  NYSTA chairman Howard Milstein stated that the savings on this loan will be substantially higher than what was claimed leading up to the July 16 Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) meeting: “By saving us $35 million in financing costs, the loan will be helping us to keep future tolls as low as possible,” said Howard Milstein, the authority’s chairman.

In a document released by the Thruway Authority after the PACB vote, savings on the full $511 million loan are stated to be $17 million. Accordingly, on the no-interest $256 million loan approved yesterday, savings would be $10 million. The 350 percent inflation of savings that Milstein is claiming is inexplicable.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

Lisa & Jacqueline Sheriff | Photo: Carmine Galasso, The Record Staff Photographer

Lisa & Jacqueline Sheriff | Photo: Carmine Galasso, The Record Staff Photographer

WINNERS

Branford, CT - Branford is adding a second platform to the town’s Shore Line East station to allow for more frequent trains.

Lisa & Jacqueline Sheriff of Waldwick, NJ - The mother-daughter team are hoping to increase traffic safety on local roadways not just by encouraging slower speeds, but by protecting traffic enforcement personnel as well.

Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation – The Dodge Foundation is supporting “creative placemaking” efforts in communities throughout New Jersey, which not only helps these communities to grow and thrive by inspiring innovation and expression, but also by catalyzing economic growth in distressed neighborhoods.

Perth, Australia rail commuters - Dozens of riders worked together to tilt a commuter train in order to free a rider trapped between the platform and train.
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A Renewed Focus on Downtown Stamford’s Streets

Mixed-use development in downtown Stamford with street-level commercial space is an essential element of an attractive, walkable downtown, but Washington Boulevard -- seven lanes wide here -- is designed for vehicular throughput. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Mixed-use development in downtown Stamford with street-level commercial space is an essential element of an attractive, walkable downtown, but Washington Boulevard — a wide, multi-lane arterial — is designed to maximize vehicular throughput. | Photo: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

Stamford is one of the fastest-growing cities in Connecticut, and a big part of that growth has been concentrated in mixed-use, multi-family developments built in and around downtown Stamford in the last decade.

Along with new residents, downtown Stamford has also attracted jobs. Unlike many stops along the Metro North New Haven Line, Stamford is not a bedroom community, but “an edge city with corporate and media spillover from New York”  that draws an ever-increasing share of reverse commuters to downtown job centers within walking distance of the McKinney Transportation Center.

But being within walking distance only takes you so far. Downtown Stamford is a short walk from the Transportation Center, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe or attractive walk. Walking between the train station and major employment hubs like Landmark Center and office buildings along Tresser Boulevard requires passing under Interstate 95, crossing wide, multi-lane arterials, and walking along streets lined with blank walls and parking garages (more examples in photo gallery below).

With all the new mixed-use development happening downtown, it’s clear that Stamford has figured out the land use side of smart growth. What’s needed now is a renewed focus on downtown streets, especially in light of two recent pedestrian fatalities and the fact that Stamford has the highest per capita pedestrian crash rate in Fairfield County with 240 people struck by vehicles between 2010 and 2012. On Monday, Tri-State partnered with Stamford’s Downtown Special Services District to conduct a walking audit of the east-west Main Street corridor and identified plenty of streets and pedestrian crossings in need of improvements; future audits will focus on other areas downtown, including the streets around the Transportation Center.

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NYSDOT Advances Balanced Route 112 Plan, But Better Bike Infrastructure Needed

NYSDOT says no to painted bike lanes.

NYSDOT says no to painted bike lanes.

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is advancing a project on Route 112 from Granny Road to New York State Route 25 in the Town of Brookhaven that will serve to better balance the roadway for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. The roughly 1.5 mile project, entering its final design phase, will:

  • build out connected sidewalk infrastructure on both sides of the roadway
  • enhance pedestrian crossings
  • implement landscaped medians and
  • include a five- to six-foot bike shoulder

In early June, TSTC submitted comments supporting the project as a “good example of a ‘fix-it-first’ initiative that maintains existing road infrastructure [and] improv[es] mobility by redesigning Route 112 into a more complete street”, but also called for a more progressive vision for bicycling infrastructure.

While shoulders are a welcome first step to encourage cycling, TSTC suggested further steps to improve safety for cyclists along this corridor, such as implementing plastic bollards or paint-buffered bike lanes. Either of these treatments would better delineate space for cyclists and enhance their safety, and the safety of other road users by creating a traffic calming effect. Increased safety will also lead to increased ridership.  According to a study of road injuries in Vancouver and Toronto conducted by the American Journal of Public Health, roads with protected bicycle infrastructure saw the risk of injury reduced by 90 percent when compared to wide roads with no cycling infrastructure. And a study by Portland State University’s National Institute of Transportation and Communities found that protected bicycle lanes increased ridership by an average of 75 percent.

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$256 Million Raid of Clean Water Funds Could Save Drivers as Little as 8 Cents a Toll…but at What Cost?

tzb-construction

Bridge construction on the Tappan Zee. | Photo: Nyack News & Views

A couple of weeks ago, New York State Thruway Authority Chairman Howard Milstein was asked how high the tolls will go on the new Tappan Zee Bridge. The Chairman replied, “Do the math, and you’ll find out that it’s not going to be a high number.”

But doing the math is pretty much impossible when basic numbers about how the bridge will be funded are kept from the public and when requests for information are met with a sea of black ink that blocks out all relevant information.

Also, what is perceived to be a “high number” varies from person to person. Comments made by New York State officials have hinted that future tolls will be in the range of $10 to $14; other estimates have been higher. Conspicuously absent from this discussion is an estimated toll savings from the controversial Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan to the Thruway Authority.

Governor Cuomo’s June 16 press release rationalized the raid on clean water funds as a way to “help keep tolls on the new bridge as low as possible.” When the public and officials questioned the loan, the administration fired back that those who oppose the loans “must be in favor of higher tolls on the new bridge,” though no mention was made of how much these loans will reduce the tolls. But a rough analysis by TSTC of documents released after the New York State Public Authorities Control Board approved the loan on July 16, shows that the toll reduction could be as little as 8 cents per toll. Put another way, an eight cents reduction would represent a 0.057 percent reduction on a hypothetical $14 toll. Even when calculated over a period of five years—the life of the CWSRF loan—is this reduction worth the potential health risks and reduced water quality resulting from a raid of funds used to protect and maintain water quality throughout the state?

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

Englewood, NJ Mayor Frank Huttle III | Photo: City of Englewood

Englewood, NJ Mayor Frank Huttle III | Photo: City of Englewood

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

WINNERS

New Haven, CT  New Haven Transportation, Traffic & Parking Director Doug Hausladen and other local leaders are coming up with some low-cost traffic calming solutions.

Flushing Commons developer Michael Meyer  The developer who is replacing a municipal parking lot with a major mixed-used development in Flushing, Queens, is calling on agencies to implement pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and ease up on parking requirements to spur future development.

Englewood, NJ  The City of Englewood voiced support for NJ Transit’s Bergen County Bus Rapid Transit plan earlier this month, which officials say “will fill a tremendous void” in Englewood’s transit network.

LOSERS

New York City Councilmember David Greenfield  Well-known for his tendency to defend parking in the city, it isn’t surprising to learn that Councilmember Greenfield is now fighting a request to reduce the required parking for a new mega-development.

2 and C train riders  The 2 train was ranked last in Straphangers’ State of the Subways Report Card, and MTA officials said that the 1960s-era trainsets used for C train service won’t be replaced for at least another three years.

NY State Senator Andrew Lanza and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis  After their request to discontinue the use of a bus lane camera on Staten Island’s Hylan Boulevard was denied, Lanza and Malliotakis “slammed the city’s use of the Bus Lane Camera Program on Staten Island,” and called it “New York City’s latest get-rich-quick scheme.”

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Deadline to Contribute to Vision Zero Map is Thursday

vz-mapDo drivers speed, run red lights, or double-park in your neighborhood? Do pedestrian signals provide enough time to cross the street safely?

If you live or work in New York City and face traffic safety challenges like these, speak up!

As part of the Vision Zero campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities, the City is seeking information from the users of its streets (that’s you) about particularly hazardous locations. Add your safety issues to the map here.

The deadline to add to the map is this Thursday.

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An Open Letter to the People of Nassau County

TSTC recently received an email with the attached letter from Westbury, Long Island resident Kevin Lucas, along with a note informing us that it had been sent to “a number of public officials, interest groups, and media organizations” with the hope of creating an opportunity for dialogue on the subject.

Though local leaders are pursuing policies to increase road safety across Nassau County, the true challenge is how to bring about cultural change. While Complete Streets policies are a politically visible means of demonstrating commitment to the cause, they are not as visible to motorists as the installation of dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, which serve to convey to drivers the message that the roadway is for sharing. It’s time for the state and local governments to hit the pavement and start walking their Complete Streets talk.

A couple of weeks ago my wife began joining me on my daily runs, except she follows along on her bicycle. And even though the run is only a mile, and is over in less than ten minutes, it has been a fulfilling and fun bonding experience for us. The runs instantly stopped feeling like a daily chore, and I looked forward to them. The way she encouraged me every day made me feel like we were Rocky and Mickey. This was going to be our daily routine. That is until July 12, 2014, at 8AM, when a man pulled up beside my wife in his car to tell her she was stupid for riding her bike in the street.

We moved to Long Island, Westbury to be exact, in February and for the most part we’ve enjoyed it here. We do not drive, by choice, and we knew that the area was suburban in nature before arriving. And although this has proved somewhat difficult we enjoy walking and the increased distances between necessities has not deterred us from walking to them. In fact, we’ve found certain stretches to be enjoyable on foot, despite being poorly designed for pedestrians. Mostly, the only consistent issues we’ve faced are lawn sprinklers spraying directly onto the sidewalks, pushing us into the street; and inattentive drivers failing to yield, particularly when turning right.

With this in mind I thought it would be nice for us to get bikes. Neither of us are cyclists, and only I had ever even really used a bike to get around before at any point in my life. She was nervous, but I assured her that it would be fine, that in a way it was safer than walking because drivers can see you better in the road. After all, everyone who drives learned how to properly give way to bicycles and pedestrians, to properly and safely pass, and to share the road. Plus, we would keep to the neighborhood streets. There would be no braving the traffic on Old Country Road. We just wanted to get around a little quicker, not make a statement. The busiest road on which we would travel was Maple/Westbury Avenue. Anything more than that and we would get off and walk our bikes. Once we got our bikes the apprehension quickly gave way to excitement. This was going to be fun, or so we thought.
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Premature, or Too Little Too Late? Port Authority Reallocates $90 Million for “Obsolete” Bus Terminal

Port Authority Bus Terminal | Photo: Allix Rogers/Flickr (via WNYC)

Port Authority Bus Terminal | Photo: Allix Rogers/flickr via WNYC

Trans-Hudson bus commuters received some promising news about the outdated Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) Wednesday: the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution officially reallocating $90 million from its current 10-year Capital Program to a (nonspecific) plan for improvements under the working title “Quality of Commute.” A detailed plan on how the Port Authority will spend that money is slated to be presented at the September 17 Board meeting.

Port Authority Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Scott Rechler called the PABT “obsolete in every way you can imagine” and expressed concern that none of the commissioners had made the PABT a top priority while the most recent 10- year capital program was being developed.

“I was a little dismayed that we spent two years going through this capital plan and getting input from all the commissioners who were taking feedback from the community and it didn’t reach that level, and I’m not exactly sure why,” Rechler said at Wednesday’s meeting.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

U.S. Representative Joe Crowley | Photo: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880

U.S. Representative Joe Crowley | Photo: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880

WINNERS

Jersey City, NJ Mayor Steve Fulop - Testifying before Congress this week, Mayor Fulop used the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail as an example of a successful transportation investment that has revitalized Jersey City.

U.S. Representative Joe Crowley - Congressman Crowley, who represents Queens and the Bronx, announced his national “Bike to Work Act,” which would allow commuters to pay for bike share memberships with pre-tax income.

U.S. Representative Jim Himes - The Representative from Connecticut called on Congress to find a long-term solution to the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Douglaston, Queens - City agencies have come together to reverse the deteriorating conditions in the neighborhood surrounding the Douglaston LIRR station, initiating the creation of a new pedestrian plaza. The activity has already attracted several new businesses to the area.

Perth Amboy, NJ - NJ Transit has allocated $9.6 million for the renovation of Perth Amboy station, which will be the cornerstone project of plans to create a transit village in the city.
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