STORY BY JANIE ROSMAN
Two open houses earlier this week in West Nyack and in Greenburgh (Westchester) presented New York State Department of Transportation findings about a dedicated bus lane on the new bridge.
“There always was an option for the bridge to have a dedicated bus lane, and it’s being built with that in mind,” DOT environmental specialist Stephanie Lewison said Tuesday night at the Palisades Center. “[Because] there were several options, this study was necessary. Now we’re gauging public interest and public concerns, and then we’ll move on to seeking federal approvals.”
One important finding determined the bridge’s outer lane would be safest for buses, Jason Wolfanger RLA, Deputy Assistant to the Regional Director Todd Westhuis, PE, said.
“[Buses] then won’t have to cross one or more lanes once [they] enter the highway only to then move over those same lanes to exit,” Wolfanger said. It also saves time in the event of traffic as the driver will already be in the right lane.
“Our concerns that bus lanes may not be part of the final project were raised by the use of the word “potential” to describe the establishing of bus lanes on the new bridge by the New York State Department of Transportation,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said in a statement to the Rockland County Times.
Dedicated lanes from ‘day one’ were a long-promised component of the bridge project, Day said. “I wrote to Governor Cuomo earlier this year urging the Lower Hudson Transit Link team to expedite the study process to ensure that buses are able to use emergency lanes on the new bridge as dedicated bus lanes.”
“The transit link is one spectrum of buses encompassing transit buses, charters, coaches, school buses,” Westhuis said. “We’re preserving the rapid bus service across the bridge to Tarrytown and White Plains (train stations). Other buses will be eligible to use the (dedicated) lane, which is not limited to transit link buses.”
Four bus lines between Suffern and White Plains, some with overlapping stops, are part of the transit link’s Phase I. These include Suffern to the Palisades Center, Monsey to White Plains, and two routes from the West Nyack mall: one to the Tarrytown train station and the other to White Plains with a stop at the train station.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the lower Hudson Valley to have transit services, which Governor Cuomo’s pushing,” Westhuis said. “We’re happy to take this through the design process and are looking to complete it by May 2018.” Bridge lanes will then be restriped to indicate buses only, and gantry messages will be changed.
Rockland County was a member of the LHTL Technical Advisory Committee and other subcommittees and provided input to the state for the new bus system that will begin November 2018. This date coincides with the opening of the new bridge’s eastbound span and the end-of-October expiration of the county’s contract with the company that operates Tappan ZEExpress.
Referencing the governor’s mass transit task force, which concluded bus lanes were “a vital aspect” of the bridge project and a first step in larger plans for the I-287 corridor, Day emphasized, “We want to ensure that the belief that this aspect of the project is never considered a ‘potential,’ but rather a given.”
When and if time comes for a discussion about light rail on the bridge, Lewison said, another study will be forthcoming.