Don’t Let Cuomo Greenwash His Cars-Only Tappan Zee Bridge

Governor Andrew Cuomo may have axed plans ten years in the making to build transit across the Tappan Zee Bridge, but hey, at least he promised to consider turning the old structure into a park, right?

Poughkeepsie's Walkway Over the Hudson, shown here, is a popular recreational amenity. A Tappan Zee walkway wouldn't be any kind of substitute for transit service, however. Photo: ##

During a cabinet meeting Wednesday, Cuomo promised to study turning the current Tappan Zee Bridge into a walkway across the Hudson instead of demolishing it when a new bridge is completed. If the governor’s support for the walkway concept is intended to greenwash his bloated, automobile-only bridge, it’s working.

The governor’s promise just to study the idea got the New York Times to finally turn its attention to the bridge. A story in yesterday’s edition marks only the third time the paper of record has discussed the governor’s plans to rebuild the bridge since the project was stripped of its transit components and fast-tracked through the review process last October. The first Times article focused on the expedited review process, the second on the vision of a High Line-esque walkway.

In contrast, the New York Times has at no point reported on the fact that there’s still no plan to pay for the new bridge, that it would be twice as wide as the current span, or that the administration has slammed the door on the public outreach process. Cuomo’s decision to kill transit on the bridge got four he-said, she-said paragraphs tacked on to the end of yesterday’s article and no mention at all in the previous story.

At least the Westchester Journal News, which today ran an editorial endorsing the Tappan Zee greenway ideal, has done more consistent and rigorous reporting on the plans for the bridge than any other outlet.

Turning the old Tappan Zee into a park could be a good idea, though since it hasn’t been vetted, there’s no way to know — it could be a total non-starter once people take a closer look. Regardless, it’s important to remember what a walkway would be and what it would not be.

It could be a great public space, though the bridge’s three-mile length and steep grade would provide serious design challenges. It could save the state money if the conversion costs less than the $150 million it will take to demolish the existing bridge.

A park won’t, however, meaningfully improve transportation in the Hudson Valley. It won’t ease congestion, won’t promote sustainable development in Westchester and Rockland towns, won’t provide options for people without cars and won’t get anyone with a car to drive less.

In fact, most people trying to reach the new walkway will likely have to drive there. On the Westchester side, it would be separated from the nearest Metro-North station by none other than the new Tappan Zee Bridge and its approach.

To achieve any sustainability goals, the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which will have a bike/ped path on the new spans either way, needs transit.

Hudson Valley locals, many of whom support the Tappan Zee walkway idea, know that a park isn’t any kind of substitute for transportation, though it might be a nice complement. Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, who put the walkway idea on the agenda, has steadfastly supported the restoration of transit service to the bridge. “Don’t replace a 1950s bridge with a 1980s bridge,” he said last October. The county executives and state senators on both sides of the bridge — two Republicans and two Democrats — have also repeatedly spoken out in favor of transit service.

Cuomo’s greenwashing efforts also include the claim that because the bridge won’t be designed to make it impossible to add transit at a later date, he’s doing everyone a favor. “We’re actually building a bridge that is ahead of the existing system,” he said at the Wednesday cabinet meeting. As we noted at the time, the only reason a transit-free, but transit-capable bridge would be ahead of the rest of the system is that Cuomo killed plans for transit on the routes leading to and from bridge as well.

Under Andrew Cuomo, the design for the Tappan Zee Bridge changed from one with transit, one which the state was using to lay the groundwork for smart growth across the Hudson Valley, to a massive highway expansion for cars and trucks only. Even with a park next to it, Cuomo’s Tappan Zee is not forward-thinking or environmentally friendly, under any stretch of the imagination.

  • NYT Metro Editor

    Sorry, Streetsblog. We do not have the time or resources to cover the metropolitan region’s biggest infrastructure project. And it’s not our job to hold the governor to account. I mean, really.

    Our crack reporter Michael Grynbaum is too busy covering the mayor’s cinema preferences…

    And we need Christine Haughney fully focused on digging up the human interest angles on random transportation stories…

    Got it?

  • Larry Littlefield

    I don’t understand why he doesn’t just designate the center lanes a busway, build flyovers from there to Rt 59 in Rockland and Rt 119 in Westchester, and say the two counties can reconfigure the roads to BRT and run service any time they want to.  Problem solved.

  • Bolwerk

    What about BRT on the new structure and using the old structure as a mix of rail and walkway?  Two tracks still leaves a hell of a lot of room for walking and bikes.

    I don’t know; maybe the structure really is too dilapidated.  But when the traffic is on another bridge, maybe it can be reinforced.

  • fj

    gotta luv net-zero mobility

    Mind-reading skateboard gets cues from neuroheadset (w/video)

  • Andrew Mark Cuomo (pronounced /?kwo?mo?/; born December 6, 1957) is the 56th and current Governor of New York, having assumed office on January 1, 2011. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the 64th New York State Attorney General, and was the 11th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Born in Queens, New York, he is the son of Mario Cuomo, the 52nd Governor of New York (1983–1994).

  • Ex-driver

    If you’re going to save the old Tappan Zee anyway, why not make it a transitway?  A transit stop in the middle and at each end would actually solve a lot of the problems inherent in turning it into a public space by giving people a way to get to the space and giving them a ride out if they don’t feel like walking back.  Surely it can be reinforced enough to allow a bus to pass over it a few times an hour.

    Then let them build a new auto bridge with its $30 tolls or whatever and let them compete. 

  • Interested Individual

    From the American Society of Engineers (ASCE) 2012 Bridges Calendar…

    “On May 27, 2012, the Golden Gate Bridge celebrates 75 years of service to the public. A masterpiece of engineering, the Golden Gate Bridge crosses a mile-wide, surging strait connecting the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay. For more than 27 years, the Golden Gate held the title of longest suspension span in the world. Building it required enough cable to circle the earth three times. The ASCE designated the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1984, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1994, and a Monument of the Millennium in 2000.
    Bridge lovers will converge on San Francisco for the anniversary, just as more than 750,000 did for the 50th in 1987. Why? Because the GGB is more than a convenient way to get from SF to Marin County. To the residents of SF and the Bay area, the GGB is the centerpiece of civic pride and identity. To Americans from California to Connecticut, the bridge is an emblem of national inventiveness, resourcefulness, and optimism. To people all over the world, the GGB stands for the promise and opportunity that can be found in the United States.
    Like SF, cities and towns of all sizes adopt local bridges as symbols of their communities. A few of these are showcased in ASCE’s 2012 Bridges calendar…
    ASCE is proud to mark the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge and to honor the ingenuity, expertise, and dedication of engineers and allied professionals who design and build bridges to improve our quality of life.”

    Why not take this opportunity to create our very own masterpiece, which will improve our quality of life here in the Hudson Valley?

  • Tbrown

    Ex–Driver… Good idea.  It could be a “people mover” like they have @ airports or in Downtown Miami, etc.  It could stop every 1/2 mile or so.  


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