BY SARA GILBERT
The Rockland Business Association hosted a meeting at Dominican College in Orangeburg on Thursday, July 26 to discuss concerns and answer questions local businesses might have about the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Brian Conybeare, who was appointed as special advisor for the bridge project by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday, July 23, moderated the 8 a.m. meeting in the Prusmack Center where more than 100 people were present.
“In 1999 the bridge needed to be repaired,” Conybeare said. “Now, more than 10 years later, we’re finally doing this.”
He explained how the $3-4 billion bridge was way overdue. Currently, the state is spending $700 million each year just to maintain it. This new bridge will last at least 150 years and will be an investment, designed to adapt to new modes of mass transit, he said.
Tom Madison, head of the state Thruway Authority, laid out the plan. The bridge in plan will be mass transit ready, meaning it will have the ability and capability to house mass transit. And not just buses, trains as well.
The bridge will include a total of 14 lanes of traffic traveling between Rockland and Westchester counties. There will be extra shoulder areas, emergency-only lanes, pedestrian and bike lanes, and new technology and traffic management.
“This bridge must work on a reliable system or else you won’t use it,” said Mark Roche, a principal with Arup, a global engineering consulting firm that has been working on the plan.
Roche gave the example of a working mother. She is only going to use a form of transportation that is guaranteed to be reliable because what if she needs to race home to pick up her child from school. As soon as the mode of transportation is late or fails in some way she has lost confidence in it and may never use it again.
The mass transit that they’re working on for the bridge is “guaranteed that it’ll get there in time,” he said.
BRT, or bus rapid transit, is the system being considered. “It is like a train on rubber tires,” said Roche.
In addition to the bus moving on a clock-like route, something Rockland does not currently have, the bus stops will have digital signs with the exact time of arrival of the next bus posted.
These plans are being prepared by Arup but are reviewed by many other agencies.
According to Roche, there has been support for building a better and safer bridge, improved traffic operations, offering mass transit and creating more jobs. The concerns include the impact on the community, additional transit capacity and impact on the river.
Roche replied to the concerns that studies have been done on the impact to the community and river. Full reports will be available for the public soon. And Cuomo has promised that the bridge will have the capacity and space to use it for at least 150 years and will be mass transit ready as soon as it is built.
Cuomo’s secretary, Larry Schwartz, was appointed to oversee the project and said he doesn’t just care about this project because it’s his job, but also because he is immediately impacted by it.
“In addition to serving the Governor, I’m a resident and parent and care about this,” Schwartz said. “The leadership team and project team, we live here and we’re working with you. We’re going to listen and be responsive to your concerns.
“We’ve changed the process from one that is wasteful of taxpayer dollars to a new, more efficient method.”
It used to be that the lowest bid for design won and worked on the project and then the lowest bid for construction came in and built it. At some point the construction team would not agree with the design and would stop building. At this point, time and tax dollars would be wasted away.
Now, Schwartz said, the burden remains on the company who wins the bid and they cannot say they’re not liable for the process and can stop building. It’s up to them, not the taxpayers.
In addressing the residents closest the bridge’s concerns, Schwartz said, “I’ve been meeting with those residents closest to the bridge and we’re going to do everything possible to keep the public informed.”
The team, including Schwartz, will set up shop in Tarrytown during the entire building process.
“Our commitment is to you and we’ll be there for you,” said Schwartz.
For more information or to ask a question, call 855-TZBRIDGE (855-892-7434) or visit www.newnybridge.com.