BY JANIE ROSMAN
Early speculation that bus rapid transit would start day one the new bridge opened in 2018 was correct, per the summary of Final Transit Recommendations released after the final committee meeting last month in Tarrytown.
Possibly bus stops in Rockland County include: Chestnut Street Suffern, Campbell Avenue/Herrion Road Suffern, Rt. 306 Monsey, Spring Valley Transit Center, Nanuet Park & Ride, The Shops at Nanuet®, Palisades Center, Lot J, Macy’s, Nyack Hospital, Main Street, Nyack and Interchange 10 on the Thruway in South Nyack.
“It is important to note that many other transit options were considered by the (31-member) MTTF, including commuter and light rail options,” per a disclaimer. Ideas for the short-term (now through 2018), mid-term (15 years after the bridge is built), and long-term (2033 and beyond) now face land use and financial challenges.
One money source is the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant program, through which $600 million was recently made available.
While the new system changes transportation options within and between Westchester and Rockland, based on studies indicating increased commuting within counties than to New York City, “Local jurisdictions will have to be consulted about whether priority transit can be done,” ARUP engineer Trent Lethco, AICP said.
If the free WiFi, better seats and covered station stops don’t attract riders, maybe the unified fare system, or priority transit will: BRT is a guaranteed 25 percent faster on local roads, 20 percent so on I-287.
Money and time savers were music to South Nyack resident Annie Hekker Weiss, who spends two hours daily in transit to work. “That’s four extra hours every day to pay a babysitter for commuting time. Thank you for helping to figure this out for us.”
“South Nyack has been recommended for a $250,000 grant through the NNYB Community Benefit Program to study Interchange 10 and potential development opportunities surrounding it,” the summary said. Ramp metering and signal upgrades are proposed for Route 59, and a future study will decide if a new Thruway exit, Interchange 14X near Airmont/Viola/Monsey, can relieve traffic on that route.
And while the new bridge’s $300 million worth of structural strength can support future rail, there’s no place to build it — now. One short-term improvement calls for an I-287 corridor study to reserve (search for) space in case new facilities are desired. “Today there is insufficient room to allow for the introduction of new measures to improve transit or transportation performance,” the summary said.
Seven proposed routes (three between the counties, three within Westchester, and one connecting Westchester to the Bronx) will connect with transit hubs, including the Palisades Center, downtown Nyack, the Shops at Nanuet, downtown Suffern, and Westchester County Airport.
Earlier-omitted travel routes were needs were added back — Suffern-to-Yonkers via a transfer at Spring Valley, Port Chester-to-Suffern trips via a Valhalla transfer — as was Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell’s suggestion to revisit the Tarrytown-to-White Plains segment of I-287 see what improvements can be made.
White Plains will get a new transit hub, thanks to White Plains Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council (MHREDC)’s $1 million study grant. Also in mid-term plans are Exit 11 reconstruction, West-of-Hudson rail improvements, and a new in-line BRT at the Palisades Center. East-west trains, and passenger service on the West Shore line, are planned for the long-term; the groups suggested talks with NYSDOT, MTA, and New Jersey Transit.
The invisible elephant appeared when Westchester League of Conservation Voters Board Member John Nonna commented, “The level of where you set the toll will determine the level of mass transit that will be considered.”
“Who will take the initiative to make sure the recommendations will move forward?” State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (88th District) asked. State DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald replied, “Our charge was to make recommendations. It’s up to the governor and the Thruway Authority to see what are the next steps.”