A Cancer in our Midst

I've been writing about the problems created by the Tappan Zee Bridge for months now, problems that have existed for 56 years now, problems that would continue and get worse if the bridge is replaced as the Governor plans. The bridge is a cancer in our midst, spewing sprawl across the Hudson Valley. There is no way to redeem it with "Bus Rapid Transit." The only way the valley can heal itself is if the bridge is gone.

Here are eight reasons to tear the bridge down - and not replace it:
  1. The Tappan Zee Bridge is a huge waste of money.
  2. The Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project will be an even bigger waste of money, anywhere from $5 billion to $18 billion. The governor has talked a lot about ways to borrow money for the bridge, but the tolls by themselves will not be enough to pay that money back; we will have to pay for it with sales or income taxes, or by cutting something else in the budget (like subways or Metro-North).
  3. The Tappan Zee Bridge competes with existing transit. Taxpayers currently pay 90% of the operating cost of buses over the bridge, and we will continue to do so as long as the State makes it easy for people to drive.
  4. The Tappan Zee Bridge is a sprawl-generating machine. The sprawl created by this bridge in Orange, Rockland, Bergen and Westchester counties is bad for everyone in the area. The bridge sprawl puts teens, seniors, the poor and the disabled at a disadvantage.
  5. The Tappan Zee Bridge sprawl increases the pressure for hydrofracking.
  6. The Tappan Zee Bridge sprawl keeps Nyack, Suffern and the other towns from being Strong Towns with sustainable budgets.
  7. The Tappan Zee Bridge sprawl adds to pollution
  8. The Tappan Zee Bridge sprawl kills.
Here are seven things that "everyone knows" about the Bridge and its planned replacement - except they're all false.
  1. The bridge is falling down. FALSE. As the State Department of Transportation wrote on Page 3 of its December 2011 Bridge Data report (PDF), the bridge is not "structurally deficient," it is "functionally obsolete," which is just a fancy way of saying "narrower than the engineers want it to be."
  2. We need a new bridge to make the crossing safer. FALSE. The bridge is wide enough for five nice wide, safe lanes, but the bureaucrats and politicians insist on squeezing seven lanes into it.
  3. The population of the area will keep increasing, and they'll keep driving more. FALSE. Population and driving have not increased linearly, as predicted, but instead have flattened out as they reach the carrying capacity of the environment.
  4. All that matters is how we borrow the money. FALSE. We will need to pay it back at some point.
  5. All that matters is whether "transit" is built on the bridge. FALSE. With any transit, and especially with the highway "BRT" favored by the most vocal advocates, the bridge would still generate tons of sprawl.
  6. The bridge will be eight lanes wide. FALSE. There's room for at least two more lanes on the planned structure. Do you really think the State DOT would pass that up?
  7. The bridge is indispensable. FALSE. There are many parallel crossings, and the Newburgh Beacon Bridge in particular has excess capacity.
A lot of the arguments given for replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge present something that we want, or maybe even need, and then offer the bridge as a way of getting that. The dishonesty is that the bridge isn't the only way of getting these things. Here are five examples.
  1. We don't need a new bridge to create jobs. Almost any increase in government spending will put more people to work. Transit projects put more people to work than road projects, so let's spend all the money on transit.
  2. We don't need a new bridge to improve mobility in the region. A wider bridge may help people to move at first, but it will soon be full of cars, and then when the tolls and the price of gas rise, no one will be able to afford to drive across it.
  3. We don't need a new bridge to reduce crashes. The Governor could reduce the crashes tomorrow by getting rid of the seventh lane on the existing bridge. He hasn't, because the politicians have all decided that squeezing a few thousand more cars in is worth the deaths and injuries, and the people don't seem to care.
  4. We don't need a new bridge to accommodate an increase in population. The population is not going to increase according to the moronic linear projections put out by the State DOT. Any added population can be served by more train and bus service.
  5. We don't need a new bridge to build a new linear park. We could build a linear park tomorrow by getting rid of a few lanes on the existing bridge, but the politicians have all decided that squeezing a few thousand more cars in is more important than a park, and the people don't seem to care.
Think about the bridge. Can you think of anything good that's come of it? Okay, anything besides Krazy City? Think about all the things you like in Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Bergen Counties, and think how much better they'd be without the bridge. We'll find some way to preserve Krazy City. As in any good fight, there are at least three other sides.
  1. Governor Cuomo, President Obama and a coalition of construction and business groups are working to replace the bridge.
  2. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has marshaled an impressive array of environmental, residential and labor players in favor of "BRT on the Bridge."
  3. The Hudson Riverkeeper has called for rehabilitating the existing bridge. This would probably be the next best solution after tearing it down, but it would still facilitate a lot of sprawl.
Please contact the Governor and Tri-State. Encourage them to abandon their empty dreams of progress and embrace a truly sustainable future for the Hudson Valley. You might also want to contact the Riverkeeper and ask him to come out strongly against rebuilding the bridge. You can also contact the allies listed on Tri-State's site, and the Governor's allies, and explain why the bridge will never be a valuable part of our future.