Tappan Zee Bridge plans, opinions evolve
There’s been much evolution of thought during the decade-long-plus discussions to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. Ambitious plans to overhaul the whole Interstate 287 corridor — principally by including rail or “bus rapid” transit with the new span — receded in October, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans for a scaled-back (and much cheaper) bridge, one designed to accommodate mass transit in the future but featuring neither bus-rapid transit nor rail at the start.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has taken heat for changing his views on the project. His spokesman, Ned McCormack, told the Editorial Board that he doesn’t see Astorino’s opinion as changing, but rather “exercising due diligence.”
Astorino has applauded the governor for moving things forward, McCormack said, and “if the governor was in (Astorino’s) shoes, he’d be asking the same questions.”
As the plans for the bridge have dramatically changed, plenty of opinions on the project have evolved.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino
“My pledge to Gov. Cuomo is that I am ready to stand with him. I am willing to invest whatever political capital I can bring to getting a new bridge built. ... The first rule is that we must have a plan that is practical enough to actually get the bridge built. Commuter rail trains over the Tappan Zee would be great to have. But how realistic is it to add $6 billion to a $9 billion project, when we don’t have the first $9 billion?” — Astorino during a June 23, 2011, speech to the Manhattan Institute’s Forum on Replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge.
“He’s got to say, ‘Enough is enough. Put the pencils down and let’s build a bridge.’ ” — Astorino during a July 2011 news conference, where he called on Cuomo to move forward with a scaled-back bridge, engineering it so that rail or bus rapid transit could be added later.
“I’m concerned that, at this point, there is no money set aside for bus rapid transit off the bridge and that there (is no) design for light-rail for commerce and or for commuter rail to get people to and from (work).” — Astorino during an October 2011 Q&A with Westfaironline.com, after Cuomo’s scaled-back plan was revealed.
I don’t think it was an outlandish request to get some information before I have to vote on such a huge project.” — Astorino on July 9, 2012, as he, Rockland Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and Putnam Executive MaryEllen Odell called for delaying a key vote on the project.
“We can do this in stages, but let’s make a commitment to do it and let’s do it, as opposed to let’s pretend we’re going to do it and never get it done, which is really the direction the state would be going in if we don’t make a commitment from day one.” — Astorino on July 11, 2012, explaining that he wanted assurances from Albany that mass transit would be part of plans for the new crossing.
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef
“I think the overriding theme … is that this is not about the bridge. It’s about mobility for the entire 287 corridor for both Rockland and Westchester.” — Vanderhoef in July 2007, calling for a comprehensive approach to the region’s bridge and mass transit challenges.
“You can’t just throw a bridge down there and say we’ll build the rest of it later.” — Vanderhoef in October 2011, after the Cuomo administration announced plans for a scaled-back Tappan Zee project, without immediate plans for bus rapid transit or rail.
“Government is renowned for changing the promises it makes for the future.” — Vanderhoef in December 2011, expressing skepticism about plans to build a “transit-ready” bridge now but only adding bus or rail later.
“(Vanderhoef) simply wanted to delay the vote because he felt he didn’t have the information that he needed to vote on this important issue. It’s a $5 billion project.” — Vanderhoef spokeswoman Sue Cerra, on July 6, 2012, after Vanderhoef, Astorino and Odell delayed a vote by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council.
“Given the current information and the ongoing discussions, I think I would vote in favor of moving forward.” — Vanderhoef on July 11, 2012.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
“You know what I say, ‘Build the bridge. Build the bridge.’ … I don’t want to hear why we can’t. I don’t want to hear about the problems. If that was the attitude, this state would never be this state.” — Cuomo in November 2011.
“If the county executives are each willing to write the state a check for $1 billion for construction and over $100 million for operating costs, we will move forward with (bus rapid transit). If not, the governor is committed to building a new Tappan Zee Bridge that ends a decade of delay and puts tens of thousands of New Yorkers back to work now.” — Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing in December 2011.
“The new Tappan Zee Bridge will be built with a dedicated express bus lane (during the peak morning and evening hours).” —http://thenewtzb.ny.gov,the project’s website, and New York Thruway Authority spokesman Andrew O’Rourke, confirming an announcement by the governor’s staff on June 28, 2012.
“The new bridge will be built to last for at least 100 years, and include eight general traffic lanes as well as additional wider lanes that would accommodate a pedestrian-bike lane, emergency breakdown lanes and a dedicated bus lane.” — New York State Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison, in a July 11, 2012, letter to The New York Times.
“(We’re) starting a whole outreach program, to talk to the issues, even if we say, ‘We don’t know yet.’” — Cuomo to the Editorial Board June 29, 2012.
Business Council of Westchester President/CEO Marsha Gordon
“A crucial element of this east-west rail transit system is a direct connection between Orange and Rockland counties and Grand Central Terminal via the Metro-North Hudson Line. This new commuter rail system (represents) the best means to eliminate congestion and improve air quality along the I-287 corridor.” — Gordon, in a March 26, 2006, “Community View” co-written with Catherine Nowicki. The two served as co-chairs of the Westchester-Rockland Tappan Zee Futures Task Force.
“We need to think in a visionary way, and we have to forecast not what we need to build today but where we need to get tomorrow.” — Gordon in July 2007.
“The (Business Council of Westchester) stands behind Gov. Cuomo’s commitment to building a new Tappan Zee Bridge. … We agree that a bridge replacement, as presented, will provide a safe, structurally sound crossing with needed width, strength and components to accommodate all forms of mass transit for both the near- and long-term. The bold plans we have before us will get the bridge we need built today for the safety and security of our citizens and create tens of thousands of much needed jobs for our region.” — Gordon in January 2012.
Rockland Business Association President/CEO Al Samuels
“The business community of Rockland implores you to come up with a vision for tomorrow that includes a new bridge and commuter rail.” — Samuels in February 2008.
“Anyone who wants to add to the cost of that bridge is an obstructionist.” — Samuels in May 2012, responding to calls that mass transit should be part of the new bridge from the beginning.
“This bridge cannot be preserved in perpetuity. It must be replaced.” — Samuels in July 2012.
Journal News/LoHud.com Editorial Board
“With an eye on the emerging needs of east-west as well as north-south commuters, we think that two plans hold the most promise: either a commuter rail or bus rapid transit system stretching across the whole 30-mile corridor from Suffern to Port Chester, feeding into existing north-south rail links and crossing a new bridge.” — March 2008.
“The smartest (transit) options were Bus Rapid Transit or Commuter Rail. We got a little of both … the bus option may offer the flexibility — and least disruption to property owners — needed to create new transit stations along a tight I-287 corridor.” — September 2008.
“Mass transit needs to remain a part of the solution.” — October 2011.
“Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged a bridge design that will accommodate mass transit later. ... It’s too early to make that compromise. … Just like the first one, a new Tappan Zee Bridge can transform the region, if it can support smart growth. Cuomo should aim higher and seek funding for mass transit in tandem with the new bridge.” — January 2012.
“A true mass transit system — even bus rapid transit along Interstate 287 in Westchester and Rockland — would take years to plan. … The Cuomo administration should be talking more about how a transit system could be built, even if it’s much further down the line.” — July 2012.