This week, The Observer looked at the loss of visionary planning and infrastructure investment in the country. We held up the Tappan Zee Bridge as a prime example of the conflicts of building in this day and age. On the one hand, Governor Andrew Cuomo deserves a lot of credit for finally kick-starting a project that has been debated for almost a decade as its structural integrity continued to deteriorate.
Yet to keep the project within the budget parameters he set out, the governor cut mass transit out of the project, a setback for locals already frustrated by congestion on the thoroughfare. The Cuomo administration has stressed that the bridge will still be able to add mass transit in the future. As Streetsblog thoughtfully explained yesterday, the odds that will ever be realized is now all but impossible.
Streetsblog highlights the fact that in expediting the bridge project, mass transit has been stripped out of the environmental review process. This means a separate environmental review would be required later, instead of being folded in now, adding to the time and expense of adding mass transit in the future, and thus diminishing its realization in the future.
Yet what is most telling is a historical example Streetsblog dug up:
When the George Washington Bridge was first built, designer Othmar Ammann imagined that the entire lower deck would eventually be used for light rail, as Rutgers professor Michael Aaron Rockland tells it in his 2008 history of the bridge. By 1962, when the lower deck was actually built, six of the eight lower deck lanes were given to automobiles. The other two were left empty, theoretically for future use by transit.
Today, the lanes are still empty, but Vicky Kelly, then the director of tunnels, bridges and terminals for the Port Authority, told Rockland that if they’re ever built out they would be for automobiles, not transit. Rockland concluded that “the G.W.B. may be thought of as representative of the triumph of automotive vehicles over mass transit in the twentieth century.”
So obviously this is nothing new.
But it also further calls into question the Governor Cuomo’s commitment to mass transit. It has been said that with the appointment of the doggedly loyal Joe Lhota, the governor is finally at the helm of the M.T.A. What does this mean for commitment to projects like the Second Avenue Subway or East Side Access or the 7-to-Seacaucus?
A Quinnipiac poll yesterday found that two-thirds of New Jersey supports the extension of the 7-Train under the Hudson River. But there may only be one person with real sway over the project, and it appears, so far, he just does not care about mass transit.