After last week's announcement by New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Astrid Glynn of a revised procedural approach to the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 corridor, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) remains concerned about the proposed plans meeting the needs of Rockland residents.
“I appreciate that Governor Spitzer and DOT Commissioner Astrid Glynn are looking at ways to save money on this enormous project, and I'm encouraged that local villages and the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the various transit options,” says Assemblywoman Jaffee, who has both attended and held many meetings on the proposed bridge plans as well as bridge safety. “This county needs realistic and reliable mass transit, but it cannot be at the expense of our residents and our neighborhoods.”
Last week's announcement outlined changes to the project review process that are projected to save New York State taxpayers millions of dollars. The changes include splitting process into two tiers. The first will be an overall assessment of the bridge construction and transit mode (whatever mode, if any, is decided upon). The second tier will zero in on plans for routes, stations locations, and designs.
It is estimated that the new procedure will save taxpayers up to $500 million each year in projected costs by allowing construction to begin up to five years sooner, thereby cutting cost increases due to inflation. Changes to the procedure also require the re-issuance of a Notice of Intent, called for under the National Environmental Policy Act, outlining the new project review process, as well as provide opportunity for public comment. Additionally, it will include new provisions allowed under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), federal transportation legislation enacted in 2005, which calls for extensive public and agency involvement in the project review process.
Assemblywoman Jaffee remains cautious about certain aspects of the proposed projects, especially its costs. “Some of the proposed options will cost billions more than suggested. So I do not want to see duplication between the service provided by NJ Transit and Metro North to midtown.”
By 2016 Rockland will have a no-transfer ride – referred to as a “one-seat ride” – into Manhattan. “I have seen the projections for increased ridership, and I'm concerned that the TZB proposal will not fully reflect those numbers when evaluating the real demand for this service. The agencies involved with providing services must cooperate – not compete,” says Jaffee who has met extensively with NJ Transit and Metro North. “I have still not seen data that shows how mass transit will serve the needs of the vast majority of commuters who use the TZB. Over 80% of all commuters who travel over the bridge are headed toward jobs in Westchester and Connecticut. We need to see how any mass transit option can provide direct service to so many spread out workplace locations, and multiple transfers deter commuters from mass transit. I am fully behind mass transit options for Rockland, but we must not spend taxpayer dollars on impractical options.”
Jaffee also stated that she has concerns about the accuracy of the data being used and whether it corresponds with the actual demand for service in Rockland County. “We have to stop looking at these projects in isolation,” says Jaffee. “We are part of a larger region, and we need to have a regional plan for transportation, or taxpayers will end up paying the price for poor planning. Ultimately, this is a project that will have a substantial impact on Rockland’s neighborhoods, so we want to be sure that it serves Rockland residents.”