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The Concerned Citizen, January 2008

CONCERNED CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT is a group which opposes building a new Tappan Zee Bridge.

What really has changed from the 1950’s when the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Thruway were rammed through Rockland and Westchester counties? As Yogi Berra purportedly said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
At that time there was virtually no input from the citizens of these counties who were forced to bear the consequences of increased air and noise pollution, dislocation of homes, and the elimination of South Nyack’s downtown area.

Today, the state agencies can point to dozens of meetings where the public has been invited to participate. Yet the bottom line remains unchanged; the plan to build a much larger, extremely expensive new bridge moves inexorably forward. The appearance of paying attention to the public’s concerns is there, but the reality is that no matter what has been put forth, the TZ proposal remains essentially unchanged since Gov. Pataki first suggested a replacement bridge over seven years ago.

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The stated reason for a larger bridge is the supposed traffic growth that will originate in ORANGE and PUTNAM COUNTIES, north of Rockland County. The Department of Transportation is planning to funnel this assumed increase into I-87 and I-287 through Rockland and Westchester Counties, areas that are already overburdened and overdeveloped. The citizens of this area will again be forced to absorb the additional URBAN SPRAWL leading to greater noise levels, poorer air quality and possibly longer traffic delays, despite a bigger bridge. A larger belt does not solve an overweight problem.

The essential question is: do we really need a new and bigger bridge? The Thruway engineers have time and again declared the TZ Bridge to be structurally sound and safe. They have spent, and are committed to spending, many millions of dollars to insure that it remains that way.

So what will a larger bridge do for us? It can only attract more traffic, create more sprawl, further deteriorate our air quality, contribute to more ASTHMA, LUNG DISEASE and CANCER associated with our already OUT-OF-COMPLIANCE levels of ozone and particulate matter in the air. It could be dangerously self defeating as it strangles this region. As the America Lung Association has noted, “IF YOU CAN’T BREATHE, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.”

A new bridge, according to the D.O.T., will be a least double the 7-LANE width of the current bridge, with corresponding highway widening. One of the reasons for a wider bridge is to accommodate commuter rail. The last estimate was 14.5 billion dollars, but that was a few years ago. Today’s cost would be considerably higher.

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Where is this money coming from? It’s a question we have often asked, but has never been answered. As of this date, the funds for this project are still not there. The M.T.A. is basically responsible for rail; they are committed to completion of the Second Ave. subway and the L.I.R.R-East connection to Grand Central Station. The potential ridership for these projects far exceeds the projected number of commuters in this corridor. These projects will be competing for federal funds and the government may not be in a position to help as it is engaged in possibly the most expensive war in history, while operating under one of the largest deficits in history. The N.Y.S. Thruway Authority could possibly issue bonds to cover some of this cost, but the ultimate burden will be on us, the taxpayers, with increased tolls and more debt.

How realistic is a commuter rail? According to the consulting engineers working for the state, tunnels will have to be dug both in Rockland and Westchester to provide a level terrain for rail. Have the state agencies factored in the cost of these tunnels? These are the same agencies that have dismissed a tunnel under the Hudson.

Do we do we really need a new and larger bridge? What we need is smarter planning for this region, planning that looks beyond the TZ Bridge and recognizes that there are vibrant and growing communities north of Rockland that will have viable urban centers with businesses, office buildings, and transportation. People should not have to travel two to four hours a day to get to a job. In addition, that area is on the cusp of having the fourth major airport in the metropolitan area. The Port Authority is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Stewart Airport to make it happen. But nowhere in the Tappan Zee proposals are these factors given any consideration.

If this makes sense to you, please call or write to Gov. Spitzer and ask him to stop this mad rush to build a new bridge and to approach this problem as a truly regional one.
Eliot Spitzer, State Capitol. Albany, NY 12224 518-474-8390 (www.ny.gov/governor/contact/index.html)

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George Sherman, President, Rockland Branch,
Sherwood Chorost, President, Westchester Branch
E-mail: CCRDrockwest@aol.com

Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

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