Readers Write: Who would pay for a new Long Island Sound crossing?

The Island Now

There are always two sides to every story “Getting off the road to nowhere” (Editorial – February 2). 

Three years ago Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced supporting a $5 million study to look at the feasibility of constructing a tunnel from Long Island to either the Bronx, Westchester or Connecticut. 

This concept of a new cross Island Sound tunnel has previously been considered for decades, but deemed unfeasible. 

The late Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Chairman Robert Moses paid for a $150,000 study in 1964.  It was performed by the firm Madigan-Hyland to study the feasibility of a bridge across the sound. 

Results of the study were released to the Nassau and Suffolk Regional Planning Board in February 1966. The Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge (originally the Bayville–Rye Bridge) was proposed to complete the Interstate 287 beltway around the New York Metropolitan Area. This was to be done by constructing a 6.1-mile-long cable suspension bridge from the Cross Westchester (I-287) Expressway in Rye to the Seaford – Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135) in Nassau County.

The estimated cost in 1966 dollars for the proposed bridge was $150 million.  (It would be billions in today’s dollars) 

The idea died due to local community opposition and lawsuits.  The same would be true today.

Property condemnation at either end to support either a bridge or tunnel including connections to existing roads could displace thousands of residents and businesses.  By the time all the court cases would be resolved, it could take years and cost billions.   

Gov. Cuomo referenced his new proposed bridge and/or tunnel from Queens or Nassau County to Westchester County or Connecticut during his 2018 State of the State speech.  He conveniently forget at the time to share the detailed results of this $5 million study.  The estimated cost for the Gateway Tunnel which would connect New Jersey with Penn Station is $29 billion. 

Crossing Long Island Sound would be a far greater distance than the Hudson River.  One recommendation from his study is an 18-mile tunnel from Rye or Port Chester to Oyster Bay with a cost between $31.5 and $55.4 billion! 

Another concept is some sort of combination tunnel and bridge between Kings Park to Bridgeport Connecticut with a cost between $13 and $32 billion.  Imagine the final cost of either concept if and when completed decades later!  Any guess what the toll would be to pay off bonds used for financing?  Try $20, $30 or $40 each way when opened in 2038 or later.  Proposed construction of a new Cross Island Sound Tunnel also has been previously studied by various other planning and transportation agencies going back decades.

Governor Cuomo’s proposed new April 1, 2018 – March 31, 2019 $168.2 billion dollar budget failed to provide specific funding sources to deal with many of his $100 billion worth of transportation commitments. 

Cuomo still needs to come up with $5.8 billion balance of the $8.3 balance he still owes to fund the $32 billion 2015 – 2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan, $4.3 billion toward $6 billion Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, $7.25 billion for New York State’s 25 percent share of the $29 billion Amtrak Gateway Tunnel along with paying back the $1.6 billion dollar federal loan and $1 billion State Thruway Authority Bond which helped finance the new $3.9 billion Tappan Zee Bridge, just to name a few. 

Add his dreams of building a new $55 billion cross Long Island Sound tunnel to the list of primarily unfunded transportation promises.

Cuomo will now have the state Department of Transportation spend even millions more to conduct additional engineering, environmental and financial analysis including impacts on local communities. 

Later in the year, a request for proposals will be released to potential developers for actual construction.  

Every year, millions of dollars are spent for planning studies to research the potential for new transportation capital investments and system expansion. 

This includes Cuomo’s own NYS Department of Transportation and NYS Economic Development Corporation, state sponsored Metropolitan Planning Organizations in every major urbanized area including the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council which serves New York City; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority along with each operating agency including NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road and MTA Bus; NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Department of City Planning and NYC Economic Development Corporation as well as the Regional Planning Association and other private entities.

They all periodically conduct transportation planning feasibility studies.  Collectively, every decade a complete inventory of all these agencies would reveal, that dozens and dozens of transportation studies worth close to $100 million in costs have been completed.  

Funding for these studies comes from a variety of sources including city, state and federal.

Has anyone ever taken a complete inventory of all these studies? 

Have they checked out the recommendations, estimated project costs, the time line for implementation and identification of potential funding sources for going forward?

Who checks to see that one study is not just a duplication of a previous study for the same issue?

Too many transportation studies championed by numerous elected officials are nothing more than placebos designed to placate demagogues, who are not regular users of the numerous public transportation alternatives that have been available for decades.

The real problem is finding money to make things happen.  

All too often funding for many studies would have been better spent on real capital and operating service improvements, instead of just lining the pockets of consultants.  How many studies end up on the shelf of planners just collecting dust? 

How many times do we end up with a series of press conferences and news releases designed to provide free publicity for elected officials to assist them in greasing the wheels of future elections. 

These same elected officials promise a bright future but leave riders holding an empty bag.

Larry Penner

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office)

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Special Guest Editorial by Ken Kinlock

I have designed a Hyperloop for Virgin Hyperloop One for Louisville to Chicago. I have evaluated a Hyperloop for New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority. I am already evaluating a 66 mile Hyperloop from Stewart International Airport to New York City. I am familiar with The Boring Company (owned and operated by Elon Musk). Start with some videos.

To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won’t fall on your head. A large network of tunnels many levels deep would fix congestion in any city, no matter how large it grew (just keep adding levels). The key to making this work is increasing tunneling speed and dropping costs by a factor of 10 or more – this is the goal of The Boring Company. Fast to dig, low cost tunnels would also make Hyperloop adoption viable and enable rapid transit across densely populated regions, enabling travel from New York to Washington DC in less than 30 minutes.

To alleviate traffic, transportation corridors, like the buildings that feed into them, must expand into three dimensions. One option is to “go up” with flying cars. However, flying cars have issues with weather, noise, and generally increase anxiety levels of those below them. The other option is to “go down” and build tunnels. The benefits are:

  • There is no practical limit to how many layers of tunnels can be built, so any level of traffic can be addressed.
  • Tunnels are weatherproof.
  • Tunnel construction and operation are silent and invisible to anyone on the surface.
  • Tunnels don’t divide communities with lanes and barriers.

Currently, tunnels are really expensive to dig, with some projects costing as much as $1 billion per mile. In order to make a tunnel network feasible, tunneling costs must be reduced by a factor of more than 10.

 

 

 

Maybe there is a better way to cross from Long Island to Westchester?

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