by Dave Zornow
New City, October 15 — Project Director Michael Anderson says that when the ribbon is cut for a new Tappan Zee Bridge sometime in the next ten years, the eight planned lanes won’t have enough capacity to support all of the cars, trucks and buses that want to cross the Hudson. But even if more lanes are added traffic would still be constrained by the roadways that feed the bridge. That’s why about half of the $16 billion planners are asking for the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Corridor Project will be used to expand intra-county, inter-county and NYC-bound transit options. “We can’t build our way out of congestion,” he says.
Anderson presented the two bridge design finalists during a status report to the Rockland County Legislature. A single level design where commuter rail trains (CRT) run in the middle and a dual level design where trains travel below have been chosen. A new CRT line will take commuters from Suffern to Grand Central. A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will run along the 287 corridor between Suffern and Port Chester.
If funding is secured, bridge construction will begin in 2015.
NYDOT’s Phil Ferguson told the legislators he’s sticking with the project’s original $16 billion estimate — for now. But he cautions that the longer it takes to start the project the more it will cost. Ferguson says it’s important to position the project for future federal dollars like the proposed National Infrastructure Bank and look at value engineering to try to reduce costs.
“This is an extraordinary challenge which needs extraordinary solutions,” Ferguson says. “It is unrealistic to think we can get 100 percent federal funding for this project.” To demonstrate the challenges of funding, TZB project officials projected trying to bond the project using the unrealistic prospect of $15 bridge tolls. “We would have only been able to bond $2 billion — far less than than the $8.3 billion needed to just build the bridge,” he says.
Anderson briefed the legislature and local and regional officials on several project decisions:
- The current bridge includes a three percent grade which forces trucks to slow down an average of 15 mph increasing congestion on the TZB. The new design reduces the grade to about 1.3 percent which should improve traffic flow.
- TZB officials are studying building a $400 million tunnel in Tarrytown to bring commuter rail trains down to ground level to connect with the Hudson River line. A less costly $300 million trestle bridge has been rejected because it would obstruct views at the historic Lyndhurst and Sunnyside properties in Westchester.
- Auxiliary lanes will be added to accommodate slower moving 287 Westbound trucks climbing the hills in Rockland which now slow traffic.
- The ramp at Interchange 10 in South Nyack will be reconfigured to allow Westbound traffic to enter South Nyack without having to make a complete circle. Currently, Westbound drivers taking Exit 10 have to drive 360 degrees to reach South Broadway.
- Exit 11 in Nyack will be restructured to improve the intersection at Route 59. The current exit ramp will be shifted 700 feet to the West. Planners say the The Brinks Memorial will not be impacted by this change.