The leaders of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), the State Thruway Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro-North Railroad (MNR) were joined recently by Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano and Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef when the agencies announced their recommendations for the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Corridor. The three-agency team has recommended that the bridge be replaced with a transit-ready bridge and that bus rapid transit and commuter rail transit be added to the corridor.
The proposal was announced at a news conference in Tarrytown after the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Corridor Environmental Review project team briefed the Westchester Rockland Tappan Zee Futures Task Force, which had been appointed by the two county executives. The proposal calls for a complete replacement of the existing bridge and the construction of a bus rapid transit system along the 30-mi. highway corridor across Rockland and Westchester counties in the lower Hudson Valley. Bus rapid transit will be operational when the new bridge opens.
The proposal also recommends a commuter rail transit system across Rockland County and the new Tappan Zee Bridge to provide New York City commuters access to Grand Central Terminal.
“The Tappan Zee Bridge is a vital link in the transportation network of New York State. It is a central part of life for people in this part of the state and, with planning and foresight, we can make even better use of this stretch over the Hudson River,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “I am pleased the project team and the county executives have come to resolution on the best way to move forward. Focusing on New York State’s critical infrastructure needs must continue even during this challenging economic time, as these projects keep our economies strong and our state thriving.”
Project staff hosted public information meetings on Oct. 28, 29 and 30 in Westchester, Rockland and Orange counties to explain the recommendations in detail. The project team then moved forward with the environmental study, while at the same time developing a comprehensive plan and innovative ways to finance the project.
“Improvements to the I-287 corridor are critical to the health of our region and the continued high quality of life in Westchester,” Spano said. “A new east-west transit link will provide the backbone for appropriate growth and continued revitalization of our downtowns.”
The announcement means that the project team will focus exclusively on studying the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge with a transit-ready bridge and construction of cross-corridor bus rapid transit as well as commuter rail transit across Rockland County and on to New York City. The project team is made up of NYSDOT, MNR and the Thruway Authority and is led by NYSDOT.
The project team released two voluminous in-depth studies: “Alternative Analysis of Rehabilitation or Replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge” and “Transit Mode Selection Report.” Both documents are available on the project Web site, www.tzbsite.com.
Full implementation of the project team’s proposal would cost: $6.4 billion for a new bridge accepting bus rapid transit and commuter rail transit; $2.9 billion for bus rapid transit and highway improvements; and $6.7 billion for the build-out of commuter rail transit in the future.
The preliminary cost estimates may change as choices are made on alignment, bridge design and other details during the next few years. NYSDOT is finalizing a contract for a financial advisor to develop options for funding the project and will release the initial phase of a finance study soon.
In developing the recommendations, NYSDOT, MNR and the Thruway Authority worked in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. Since last year, the project team has analyzed seven bridge rehabilitation or replacement options and eight transit mode alternatives. Those analyses, which also incorporated a lengthy public comment record, have been completed, resulting in the recommendations.
Once finalized in a Final Scoping Report to be issued after the public information meetings next month, the recommendations will be the subject of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS is scheduled to be completed by late 2009, with a Final Environmental Impact Statement to be completed in early 2010.
The DEIS will evaluate the environmental impacts of various ways to implement the chosen plan, including alternative bridge designs, highway improvements and alignments, all of which will accommodate both bus rapid transit and commuter rail transit. The project team will present the final DEIS alternatives to the public at an open house early next year. The Record of Decision that will result in 2010 will identify the preferred alternative.
Thruway Authority Executive Director Michael R. Fleischer said, “After intensive scrutiny of whether rehabilitation of the Tappan Zee Bridge could yield the engineering, environmental, safety and mobility goals set forth in this study, a new bridge is the best option for the traveling public, the corridor and the economic well-being of the region and state. While the process of finding the best transportation solution for this region continues, the Authority will continue to fulfill its responsibility to maintain and operate the Tappan Zee Bridge by continuing to make the necessary investments to assure safe and efficient travel for the millions of motorists that use the bridge annually.”
In the analysis just completed, the project team’s objective was to determine which rehabilitation and replacement alternatives are reasonable options to be evaluated in the DEIS. Alternatives analysis found that replacing the bridge is the best way to provide better engineering performance, lower maintenance costs, shortest construction time, least environmental impacts and the longest life cycle for the bridge. The Tappan Zee Bridge, constructed 52 years ago, was built according to prevailing standards in the early 1950s. While the bridge is safe, its design does not meet current national standards for structural elements and some of its deficiencies can not be addressed — even in the most robust rehabilitation scenarios — because of the structure’s basic design characteristics.
Bridge replacement options proposed for study include three scenarios designed to accommodate bus rapid transit and commuter rail transit, as well as bicycle-pedestrian access. The options feature single- or dual-level bridge designs.
The Transit Solution
The recommended transit solution calls for full-corridor bus rapid transit from Suffern to Port Chester with transfer points and new stations in between, as well as a new, two-track commuter rail transit service from the Port Jervis Line at Suffern, across Rockland County with several new stations and over the new bridge, connecting to the Hudson Line south of Tarrytown and thus providing direct service to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Some bus rapid transit service routes would extend beyond the project limits and could be modified as demand changed.
Anticipated growth in travel demand in this region and the ability of the proposed transit modes to accommodate it were among the most important considerations in making this recommendation. The combination of bus rapid transit and commuter rail transit also would provide the most flexibility to accommodate multiple markets, including the cross-corridor and New York City travel markets. Completion of the Access to the Region’s Core project was taken into account in the developing the recommendation.