By Arthur H. Gunther III
How would you feel if someone with clout and cash decided to throw a party in your home, didn’t invite you, left a mess and couldn’t remember your name?
That’s about to happen in South Nyack, N.Y., and Tarrytown, just across the mighty Hudson River, a National Historic waterway that itself should get more respect. I mean Henry Hudson explored this part of America, right?
He found the river though he was seeking the Northwest Passage, but it now appears transportation gurus in Washington and at Albany, directed by a president and governor, can’t find post-exploration settlements on the Hudson’s shore. And they have GPS. If they could, taxpayers at South Nyack and Tarrytown would like them to come visit, sit a spell and tell them what to expect when a new bridge is built joining the communities.
Actually, a crossing already exists – the , named by a newspaper editor (Norman R. Baker of The Journal-News) but since 1994 officially termed the Gov. Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge. Built in 1955. it was constructed on the cheap to save money and to get it up quickly. It was designed as the New York State Thruway’s “cash register on the Hudson,” to pay off the bonding.
The bridge, carrying far more traffic than originally expected and requiring super-costly renovation, is now said to be failing, though there is dispute over this, and special interests like the trucking lobby and construction unions want it replaced.
A nearly $6 billion, two-bridge choice is to be designed as quickly as the last one.
That’s where the disrespect for South Nyack and Tarrytown comes into play.
It seems the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, not required in the 1950s but now at least an attempt to address land, water, air and people issues, has not properly examined the effects on either side of the Hudson.
Why not? The Thruway backs up daily in both locations and vehicle emissions fill the air. Trucks are a special problem, their diesel exhaust clearly visible as a tripling of pre-1990 truck traffic continues. The new crossings’ landfall also will affect property values and quality of life during and after construction, and promises even more traffic.
President Obama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have fast-tracked bridge replacement, contending it will create jobs in an economy in need of re-invention as well as assure the soundness of the interstate system. So they will occupy South Nyack and Tarrytown to get the job done, hardly caring if they make a mess of life there.
It’s their party, though the bridge jobs will be temporary and the new crossings will be as impotent in moving increasing traffic as is the present bridge.
Decades ago, the interstate system should have constructed a major connector road between I-84 and I-95, so that trucks bound for New England go north and east and do not need to take the Tappan Zee. That should have been done before I-287 opened in the early 1990s, almost doubling Tappan Zee truck traffic overnight. Also, a one-seat ride should have been provided for commuters west of the river. And a dedicated bus lane should have been established on the bridge.
Those two moves would have reduced auto traffic.
Now, with fast-track design, bidding and construction ever so rapidly approaching, these old issues still have not been resolved. South Nyack, which lost hundreds of homes and its entire downtown through state seizure in the first Tappan Zee build, will get another sock in the jaw. And that punch will vibrate over the Hudson at Tarrytown, too.
Nice when some have friends in high places. Not so nice if those friends are your enemies.