By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
When the state started creating plans in 2000 to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge, many of us in Rockland County thought we would finally get the mass transit options that much of the New York metro area already enjoys.
In the 17 years that it’s taken to make the new bridge a reality, we’ve learned that nothing happens quickly.
Our dreams for a commuter rail component to allow people in Rockland County easier access in and out of New York City were dashed early on.
No money was available to pay for a rail line on the new bridge, we were told.
Maybe that part of the project could become a reality in the future, but no promises, was the word we got.
And, to the credit of the prior administration and Rockland’s transit advocates, the bridge was designed so it could accommodate a rail line when the funding finally becomes available.
We were disappointed but took the news like big boys and girls.
Even though we weren’t going to get the rail line right away, we were told that there would be a consolation prize: A dedicated bus lane on the bridge.
When we started getting word more recently that even a dedicated bus lane might not happen, we made our displeasure known.
I contacted the Governor and we started lobbying the state to make sure that at the very least a dedicated bus lane on the bridge was part of the project.
Good news: It looks like we will be getting at least that.
The state Department of Transportation held an Open House at the Palisades Center this week to present findings on a feasibility study for dedicated bus lanes on the new bridge.
They found that the addition of a dedicated bus lane on the new bridge in both directions will encourage efficient transit operations by separating commuter vehicles from bus and emergency vehicles traveling across the bridge.
Not only that, but dedicated bus lanes are expected to reduce travel times for buses and emergency vehicles across the bridge.
I’m obviously pleased that the state has reached the conclusion that dedicated bus lanes on the bridge are workable and can improve the traffic flow for all.
And I’m hopeful that we will see bus lanes on the bridge.
But what comes next?
Since the start of this project, we have told the state that Rockland needs bus priority lanes throughout the I-287 corridor, especially between Palisades Center, Tarrytown Rail Station and White Plains TransCenter.
It’s doable – the state could allow buses to travel in the shoulder lanes, a solution elsewhere.
And we have suggested that the Lower Hudson Transit Link study the use of the abandoned Piermont rail line right-of-way for buses and future Bus Rapid Transit. That would speed the trip and help get traffic off Route 59 and other local roadways.
The additional technological improvements that the Lower Hudson Transit Link project will provide, such as ramp metering, queue jump lanes and transit signal priority for buses will also help to provide a faster, transit option.
And we’re not giving up hope for that commuter rail line – someday.
We’ve waited this long for a new bridge. Too bad we have to wait even longer for workable mass transit options.