Sunday, October 17, 2010

The New Tappan Zee Bridge, Now With Rail

Officials from NYSDOT, the MTA, and New York State Thruway Authority have announced that the Tappan Zee Bridge/Interstate 287 Corridor Project has narrowed the designs for a new bridge from six to the two that are rendered below.

Interestingly, there appears to be images of other plans or different sections of the two preferred plans on Nyack-Piermont Patch:

According to
A new span to replace the soon-to-be 55-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge is just one part of the $16 billion project. It also would add bus rapid transit from Suffern to Port Chester along 30 miles of Interstate 287 and would call for the construction of a new passenger rail line across Rockland, over the new bridge and into Westchester onto Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line, ending at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

The issue of how it will all be paid was addressed in Nyack News & Views:
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.

There was also the reality check about pleasing all the people all the time:
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.

It's not just the bottlenecks at feeder roads that will constrain traffic. It's the general principle of "traffic generation" that Robert Caro addressed in his biography of Robert Moses, "The Power Broker". Basically the theory postulates that the number of cars on the road is not a static number. When you add an extra lane, an extra bridge, and/or extra tunnel, it's just an invitation for even more drivers to use it. Nature abhors a vacuum.

All in all the plan is a refreshing return of the days when infrastructure was built to serve all forms of transportation. Robert Moses might be screaming curses, but Gustav Lindenthal might be wiping a tear of catharsis. Plan 5 is better because the lower level of the south span could double the number of trains in the future. Freight rail perhaps.

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