BY JANIE ROSMAN
Bicyclist Gene Jackson remembers watching the Tappan Zee Bridge being built in the early 1950s. “It was very different then, there wasn’t as much traffic,” the Spring Valley native said.
“I thought the seminar was great and can’t wait to bicycle on the new bridge,” Jackson said after hearing about the bike path last week. Its 3.1 mile-span is a possible addition to Rockland Bicycling Club’s (www.RocklandBike.org) annual Three Bridges Century event, a 100-mile east ride that crosses the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, Walkway Over the Hudson, and Bear Mountain Bridge.
That RBC members will arrive at the Rockland terminus via two wheels is one less concern for South Nyack residents worried about cars clogging their streets.
“There’s no rule or federal guideline to help determine how many spots are needed,” special project advisor Brian Conybeare said, “so we sent out our traffic engineers to three bridges that have similar facilities.”
From information gleaned by studying these bridges with paths like the one being built and existing areas where people bicycle ride, the engineers surveyed how far people travel to use a specific bridge path.
They found via zip code query that most visitors on average will come from within a 15-mile radius, and at peak hour (a summer weekend) it will see 473 visitors (based upon 15-mile radius in both counties and using their populations). While not everyone will come from both counties, it was determined via calculations that Rockland needs 54 parking spaces, and Westchester needs 97.
“Is that 473 people in one day?” someone asked. “That is at the peak hour on the busiest day,” Conybeare said. “On a rainy February or a snowy January Tuesday there aren’t going to be 473 people on the path. We’re trying to plan for the busiest time.”
Since the Thruway Authority and state police vacated Westchester north of the bridge — and all-electronic toll collection is in the near future — only a state police facility will be rebuilt, freeing space for additional parking spots, food trucks, bathrooms and a state police kiosk.
Someone remarked about the large handwritten sign at Cornelison Avenue and South Broadway. Conybeare said village leadership asked the state to extend it from the original location at Smith Avenue, buy Village Hall and use the land for parking. Residents resisted, and while the Village Hall idea was taken off the table, “We did acquire the land and will create a plaza, make safety improvements and add a crosswalk.”
While South Nyack would like the terminus to end at Exit 10, it recently received bids for its Request for Proposal (RFP) to conduct a feasibility study and hasn’t awarded the contract. Project officials have a mid-2018 deadline for the bridge’s opening.
New City resident Mike Benowitz is excited about the new path. “I’m optimistic the state will be able to connect the new path to the North Country Trail Way providing many new cycling options.”
RBC members asked about crossing South Broadway, accessibility for people with limited mobility and especially safety for bicyclists. Last month the group met with the Rockland County Traffic Safety Board, developing a “Let’s Share the Road” message to bridge the gap between motorists and bicyclists. In May RBC will again participate in the annual Ride of Silence to raise awareness of bike safety issues on local roads.
The Ride holds special local meaning as RBC remembers and honors the memories of Rockland residents Janet Martinez, Robert Carl Pinckert and Ennio Spiri, killed in accidents in recent years.
One member cited South Nyack’s desire to protect its streets versus how people with limited mobility and the elderly can access the path. Paul Langus of New City asked if the path would be like the mile-long Walkway Over the Hudson.
The conundrum is where to situate the 54 parking spaces?
One concept calls for meters on the south side of South Broadway. South Nyack’s recently-formed parking task force is residential permits to keep visitors from parking on local streets. Another uses Thruway property at the Interchange 10 loop (small triangle where two stop signs are).
“What we think is a good solution is to create 54 parking spaces and a small bathroom on the north end of Interchange 10 (add Concept B1) on Thruway property,” Conybeare said.
The path would be accessed by a 10-foot wide ADA-accessible ramp connecting to the Esposito Trail, which leads to a pedestrian/bike crossing with a light to keep traffic flowing,” he said. Included are improvements for safety, the turning radius of the corner, new stop signs, new crosswalks, etc.
The third choice continues the shared use path along the Esposito Trail into Nyack to access the existing municipal lot. “We think a combination of those concepts would help us and the village,” Conybeare said.
Despite a few engineering obstacles situating it in Nyack, Conybeare said, “We’re hoping people will be able to park one-quarter of a mile or less from the SUP.”
Project officials welcome comments pro or con about the parking concepts. Visit http://www.newnybridge.com/documents/sup/index.html for information. Once the environmental assessment is published, Conybeare said, there will be a minimum 30 day formal comment period.