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Mario Cuomo Bridge

Go Slow on Fast Track Tappan Zee Plan

by Jen White

Nyack’s Mayor Jen White addressed planners and officials from the NYS Department of Transportation on Tuesday at a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Tappan Zee Hudson Crossing Project.

I am going to begin where I began six months ago’€¦by thanking Governor Cuomo for his determination to get something done.  He is a man of his word, a man who does not waste time on idle political chatter and a man who wants to solve the big problems.

I’d also like to thank my neighbors for their attendance and participation.

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It is only natural that the speed of the bridge development plan has caused many of us who live in the shadow of the Tappan Zee to take a deep breath.  It must be constantly acknowledged that some of our neighbors still suffer from the mistakes of the original construction plan.

I am asking the Governor to join us and take a pause in the fast track bridge development process to hear some of our concerns.

This cannot be solely a bridge for traffic traveling across the Hudson to points North and south and east and west.

This must be a project that respects those of us who have chosen to raise our families and invest our life savings on the spot where this bridge is anchored.

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Each and every municipality within actual viewing distance of the bridge is asking the governor for an expanded period of public comment because we all have real concerns and we need access to the information to alleviate those concerns.

I for one am terribly worried because I cannot find any concrete information on the cost to travel over a new bridge.  Toll projections by those not involved in the project are running anywhere from $9 to $30.  The state is saying that they will be within reason but has not explained what within reason means.  The governor this week stated that tolls would be the main source of funds for the bridge. All of these facts are enough to make commuters quite uncomfortable.

Nine dollars will be difficult for those who use the bridge daily to get to work. Thirty dollars, without a reliable public transportation option, will make it impossible.

It would be ironic if a project intended to create jobs effectively made it impossible for residents of Rockland and Orange County to get to those jobs they already have or to seek work beyond their home counties.

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This cannot be a bridge that meets the needs of distant regions by sacrificing the needs of the region where the bridge is located.  The fact that a foot and bike path is part of this plan begins to create a clear benefit for our local communities.  The traffic of thousands of tourists and cyclists that will use the bridge as a gateway to the natural wonders of the Hudson valley, and the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular recreation such an amenity creates a real benefit.  But it’s not enough.

I worry that the bid and build process will put the oversight into the builders hands rather than the government regulators who are there to protect us.

I worry about the increased noise in our river villages and the heavy impact of construction on our river and water front.  Among many details I find lacking in this fast tracked plan is clear information about how demolition of the old bridge, should it occur, will occur.

We are the communities that will lose homes and face increased noise and years of construction.  We are the stewards of a river that, despite all of our best efforts, may become more polluted in the name of progress.

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We need a safe river crossing, we know that.  But in addition to a world-class foot and bike path, we need commuting to be affordable and we need to know that there is a future transit option being detailed not just talked about, whether across the bridge or somewhere nearby.  We need an accountable construction process that can mitigate noise and air pollution and harm to our river.

And I believe that we need a bit more time and a bit more access to information to work these things out.

As the families that will bear the negative burden of a multi-year construction phase, and the uncertain outcome of any eventual project, we deserve to be held in as high, or perhaps higher, regard as those travelers and truckers who will fly by our village at sixty five miles an hour over a shiny, sturdy and modern new bridge.

Jen White is the Mayor of Nyack, NY.

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