I've been criticizing the Tappan Zee Bridge for weeks now, so it's time to offer an alternative vision. Deactivating the bridge will not make Orange, Bergen and Rockland counties go away. People will still live there. The role of the area in the regional economy would change somewhat, probably for the better. A wise investment in transportation infrastructure could foster prosperity in the area, but rebuilding the bridge ain't it.
Rockland, Orange and Bergen counties did not go straight from farmland to sprawl. There were many years of transit-oriented development, for industry, tourism and commuting.
Tourism and farming are the two economic sectors most likely to return. "Eating local" in the future is more likely to mean vegetables from Orange County than from a backyard in Brooklyn. If travel gets more expensive, a weekend in Nyack could become a better value than a weekend in Stockbridge. Bedroom communities may continue to be the main driver of the economies of these three counties, but not in the current sprawling configuration.
The current sprawl will not function with gas costing more than six dollars, but transit-oriented development can. Fortunately Orange, Bergen and Rockland counties have a network of transit-oriented towns that is still almost complete.
The Erie, and Pascack Valley railroads are still carrying passengers through the area, and the West Shore, Northern Branch and Suzy-Q are still carrying freight. The old Erie main line to Piermont is still intact from Suffern to Nanuet, and the right-of-way has been preserved as a rail-trail from Pearl River to Tappan. The only break is a mile or so from the Nanuet station to the Orangetown town line. The spurs to Haverstraw and New City have been abandoned, but the right of way seems mostly intact.
Just as importantly, the walkable town centers that grew up around train stations in all three counties before the highway network are still there. Middletown and Newburgh, Suffern and Nyack, Paterson and Hackensack, are still there with many of their beautiful old buildings still standing. All they need are transit riders and zoning reform to become vibrant towns again.
This is my vision for a Rockland county (and Bergen, and Orange) freed from car dependence. With convenient rail connections to jobs in Manhattan and Jersey City, no one will need to drive to Westchester. With sufficient residential density in the downtowns, businesses can thrive on pedestrian traffic without huge parking lots. When a train station and shopping are within walking distance, cars become unnecessary.