The county executives of Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties are finally giving their official blessing to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's $5.2 billion plan for a new Tappan Zee Bridge -- now that he's agreed to form a task force to firm up future transit options.
The current bridge plan includes dedicated bus lanes, but no timetable for bus rapid transit on either side of the Hudson River crossing.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino says that discussion is now back on the table. "Unless there was going to be some transit options," he said, "this bridge would just have the same old congestion and pollution and problems that the current one does. It would just look shinier."
Astorino has been pushing for a 12-mile BRT corridor. He said that he, Rockland County executive Scott Vanderhoef, and Putnam County executive MaryEllen Odell have been in talks with the governor for a month.
The transit task force will make recommendations within a year.
The county executives sit on a council that must unanimously approve the Tappan Zee Bridge plan to make it eligible for federal funding. That vote had been delayed, but now it is expected to move ahead quickly.
Governor Cuomo has spent the summer lining up local support for the bridge. On Thursday, he sent out a delighted email trumpeting the executives' support.
"Building a new, better bridge to replace the Tappan Zee and ending the dysfunction that has delayed this project for over ten years has been a top priority since I took office,” he said. “County Executives Robert Astorino, Scott Vanderhoef and MaryEllen Odell have consistently supported our efforts to replace the Tappan Zee and I am pleased that they are pledging to vote for our plan to build a safer, transit-ready bridge that will reduce congestion, provide a dedicated bus lane, and create tens of thousands of jobs. We will continue to work with local leaders and stakeholders as we move forward with one of the biggest and most critical infrastructure projects in New York.”
Thursday's announcement also won support from another corner: advocacy group the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which has long been pushing for mass transit options for the new bridge. The group's executive director, Veronica Vanterpool, said in an email that "this bridge project is taking a turn for the better." She added: "A firm commitment from Governor Cuomo’s office for dedicated bus lanes on the span from day one is a real victory that will improve commutes for bus riders and drivers from the day the bridge opens. But, without additional measures for bus rapid transit in the future, the bus lanes themselves will do little to address the mobility needs of the I-287 corridor. This initial investment shows that the governor’s office has moved beyond the rhetoric of “transit-readiness” to a concrete transit provision."