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Street Beat: Shift Happens Friday on the Tappan Zee Bridge

Cars Will Detour on 9W During Multi-Week River Rd Closure
Cyclists Restricted Through Construction Zone

Nyack, Oct 6 — Say goodbye to “the Tapp” and hello to “the Mario.” The Big Shift is on tonight beginning at 9p, when the last lane of traffic using the 1955 Tappan Zee Bridge switches to the new Gov Mario M Cuomo Bridge. Feeling smug that you don’t ever take the bridge and this won’t affect you? If you regularly drive Piermont Ave / River Road, think again: you won’t be using that route for almost a month while Tappan Zee Constructors demolishes the overpass above that street. Still, you could always take a bicycle and get around that mess, right?  Not so much: bicyclists who want to leave Nyack via the popular and preferred Piermont Ave route will have to wait as much as an hour to get through that mess during construction days.

Tonight on the Tappan Zee

East and southbound traffic (into Westchester) should anticipate multiple lane and ramp closures near the bridge beginning at 9p. At around 10p, traffic in this direction will stop for up to 20 minutes. After lane striping and shift barriers are moved, eastbound traffic will use the north span of the new bridge. NYS Thruway officials promise that this will be the last traffic tie up on the original Tappan Zee Bridge. Ever.
The South Broadway Exit 10 on ramp to I-287 will be closed at approximately 9p.

What’s To Become of The Old Bridge?

Beginning Oct 10, Piermont Ave/River Road, the street that runs under the TZB in South Nyack will be closed to car traffic M-Sat for about a month. The landing for the old bridge will be demolished to permit completion of the south span of the new bridge. The work will require the use of mobile cranes to remove large sections of concrete and steel from the area.
Car detour: Vehicular traffic will be detoured to 9W from Oct 10 through mid-November. Yes, that crowded, two-lane no shoulder stretch between Nyack and Piermont will really suck. Even more than usual.

Bicycles Beware: Hurry Up And Wait (But Don’t Detour on 9W!)

On a busy summer weekend, as many as 5,000 cyclists will ride from North Jersey and New York City to Nyack and points north principally using this route. It’s not the summer, but it’s still a popular route — as witnessed by the throng of cyclists who rest and resuscitate at the Runcible Spoon Bakery on fall weekends. Thruway officials will let cyclists get through once an hour during the week and as frequently as every 15 minutes on Saturday. Which has implications for local businesses than depend on that traffic (prediction: no cyclist is going to wait 15 minutes much less an hour to get through. They will find an alternate route or turn around).

There is one safe alternate route that bypasses the demolition, the backups and all of the traffic. But for some inexplicable reason, New NY Bridge officials won’t endorse it or mention it in their press releases or email blasts. The Esposito Rail trail, albeit limited to hybrid or mountain bicycles, is a great N/S alternative that locals use that runs through the woods. Local cyclists have asked the New NY Bridge’s help to get the word out — but the agency has essentially said, “not our job.”
Cycling advocates fear that riders from NYC and North Jersey will use the 9W detour rather than wait to get through the demolition site. When members of the Rockland Bicycle Club met with Thruway officials on Oct 3 urging them to discourage cyclists from taking this detour because it includes a dangerous stretch of 9W where recreational cyclist Janet Martinez was struck and killed in June 2012, officials said they would not be highlighting this issue in future announcements to the news media. A spokesperson for the New NY Bridge confirmed on 10/5 that the New NY Bridge had no plans to issue any advisories regarding safe alternate cycling detours, nor did they plan to issue any warnings about bicycling on 9W during the Rockland TZB landing demolition.
In their defense, it might be impolitic for a NYS Thruway project to say that 9W, a NYS DOT roadway, is unsafe for one of the modalities which is entitled to share that road. That said, when safety is concerned, it would be nice to think safety would supersede politics.
This is the last lap of a multi-year, multi-billion dollar infrastructure project where the New NY Bridge has done an exceptional job of community outreach and accommodation — until this week. Countless hours of planning went into coordinating bus re-routes and how fire and ambulance personnel will respond during the weeks when River Road will be closed. Couldn’t they have spent just a little more time thinking through such an obvious conflict?
Cycling is a growing constituency in the lower Hudson and New York State. Governor Andrew Cuomo has dedicated $200 million in the 2017-18 state budget to create the 750 mile Empire State Trail, which, when completed, will be the largest state multi-use trail in the country stretching from the Battery in NYC to the Canadian border and from Albany to Buffalo. Also, there’s no question that the soon to be named Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is the favorite infrastructure project of Governor Andrew Cuomo. You would think that two of the governor’s state agencies could find the time to meet and work through the nuances of communicating the serious safety implications caused by this month long detour, especially considering the death of a cyclist on this road was likely caused by bad communication (Family of Cycling Fatality Says ‘Fix The Signs’, 7/5/2012). But alas, that is not the case.
Street Beat is a weekly feature on Nyack News And Views covering streets, sidewalks, cycling, mass transit and safety. Sponsored by Velo Bistro Wine Bar, Weld Realty and Bike Nyack.

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