Hundreds of Rockland residents filled the Palisades Center's community rooms Tuesday night to discuss the new, and no two were the same.
The hosted South Nyack residents concerned about their properties and miffed local politicians; construction workers vehemently campaigning for a quick start and commuters wary of toll hikes; state officials sounding off on the project's urgency and Riverkeeper employees concerned about endangered Hudson River fish.
But at the center of four-hour long meeting was the same core issue as meetings past: mass transit, or lack thereof on the proposed new bridge.
The new crossing, which is expected to be complete by 2017 for an estimated $5.2 billion, is not slated to house rail or bus transit. The bridge will include a bike and pedestrian lane, however, and will be equipped to incorporate rail at a possible future date.
Construction could begin this year, officials said, and the the span will likely be selected by this fall, said Kristine Edwards of the New York State Department of Transportation.
Installing rail would up the total cost to around $16 billion, but dedicated bus lanes and infrastructure would be significantly cheaper—leading many residents in attendance to champion the dictum that "a crossing without public transport would be obsolete from day one," as one Riverkeeper employees said.
By the time several residents had a chance to sound off, however, the night was winding down; ealier chunks of time were dedicated to state officials and local lawmakers.
John Lipscomb, a Piermont resident, wasn't pleased with the schedule.
"Maybe next time [at Westchester's Thursday meeting] elected officials can speak after residents," he said. "Then they can actually hear what people who voted for them have to say."
Ross Pepe, head of the Construction Industry Council, spoke in favor of building the proposed span swiftly, noting it will act as a stimulus to bring mass transit to the region.
"Build what we can afford now, but prepare for the future," he said. Pepe's statements were met with applause from a gaggle of construction workers that stood in the back of the room.
Jan Degenshein, chair of the Rockland business association and a 50-plus year resident of the Nyacks, partially echoed Pepe's setiments, but expressed anxiety about the possible local impacts.
"Tread lightly," he said to the panel of New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) officials, and New York State Thruway (NYST) officials, that sat at the head of the room.
Currently, the state has a number of barges in the bridge's shadow collecting soil samples; this reseach will give way to a test pile project in April, where seven sample piles will be driven hundreds off feet into the Hudson River's floor, and their ability to support weight tested.
NYSDOT officials fielded residents' questions in an adjacent room with posterboard that spotlighted each stage of the construction process. Vicki Hope—a member of Arup, a firm of consulting engineers—sounded off on the bridge's design-build component. The design-build element means the state will award a single constract to a joint engineering and construction team.
"It's a one-stop shop," Hope said, noting a single constract makes this cheaper and quicker. "They hash things out among themselves—they don't approach [the state] with problems."
Hope added the design-build team will stick to a specific budget put forth by the state. The project will be financed by taxpayers.
Residents have until March 15 to submit public comments regarding the DEIS, .
(To send a comment: email email@example.com, fax (845) 454-7443 or mail Michael P. Anderson, Project Director, New York State Dept. of Transportation, 4 Burnett Boulevard, Poughkeepsie, New York 12603.)
A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is then set to address public comments, and be released in July 2012. Following that, the Federal Highway Administration will release a Record of Decision (ROD) in August 2012.
The state's website for the proposed new bridge can be found here.
Read what South Nyack homes may be demolished as a result of the new bridge .
Read about the current bridge's shortcomings .
Read about the suggested Tappan Zee tunnel .