New York State is moving ahead with plans to replace the aging Tappan Zee Bridge. The project, while expensive, is critically needed. The current bridge is severely outmoded and requires $50 million a year to be maintained. The absence of adequate breakdown lanes leads to safety hazards and severe traffic jams. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled his commitment to building a bridge that one day could accommodate transit services -- both dedicated bus lanes and eventual commuter rail. Regional Plan Association supports that initiative. While it isn't clear whether there will be sufficient demand for transit by the time the new bridge opens in 2017, the need will surely emerge in the coming years, driven by population growth and economic development across the region. And the only way for mass transit to succeed on the bridge is if it is planned for now, during the initial design process. Providing mass transit is important for many reasons. It reduces congestion, improves air quality, expands opportunity for those who can't afford to drive and supports a growing economy. It is also true that a minimum level of demand is required for transit to be cost-effective.
There are some transit-oriented steps, such as building a direct bus connection ramp from the eastern side of the Tappan Zee to the Tarrytown train station, that should be built for when the new bridge opens. Other transit improvements on the bridge and along the Westchester and Rockland County corridor might be able to wait, as long as planning for their implementation begins right away. It is crucial that the planning process remain open to public scrutiny and that enough time is allowed to avoid repeating flaws that have long hobbled the existing bridge. To learn more about how transit could be implemented on the bridge, read testimony by RPA senior transportation fellow Jeff Zupan.