Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

Making Sure It Won’t Happen Here

Courtesy of NYS Thruway Authority

Courtesy of NYS Thruway Authority

Three time zones away from New York State, the Interstate 5 at Skagit River Bridge in Washington state collapsed yesterday, sending one couple and their pickup and camper, and another man and his car, into the water.

Warm, cold, tepid, frigid, does it matter?  It should not have happened, no matter if a truck ran into one of the bridge’s girders.

At less than 340 meters (1,111 feet or 0.2 miles) long, this structure carries about 70,000 vehicles a day and is one of the busiest in Northwest Washington.  Built in 1955 — when the Tappan Zee Bridge opened — it was called functionally obsolete.  The question is, WHY?

The Federal Highway Administration said in September, “In the last 20 years, the Tappan Zee Bridge has shown significant deterioration.”  We know, and we’re doing something about it.

The Washington State DOT said the Skagit River Bridge was inspected twice last year, “once in August, once in November after it was struck by a vehicle.”

Let’s compare.  The Interstate 5 bridge averages 71,000 vehicles daily on its four lanes that span 0.2 miles, while the TZB carries a whopping 134,000 (nearly double) vehicles across three miles via seven lanes with a movable barrier.

Building a bridge is noisy and disruptive, and necessary.

Less than half a mile from where I live, a formerly four-lane bridge that crosses over train tracks has become a six-lane improvement during the past three years.  This is a guesstimate, given the small window to work with at night, in addition to a 2:30 a.m.-to-4:30 a.m. time slot during track outages.

Noisy, and at times inconvenient, the construction caused traffic jams into my residential street that’s already congested with delivery trucks, and cars that are double-parked.

There’s also the Crane Road Bridge replacement project on the Bronx River Parkway, which will be completed by spring 2015.  Construction plans that necessitated closing a vital entrance and exit for 18 months aggravated local merchants planning holiday sales.

“That’s going to impact our business,” said one business owner. “You’re closing the bridge right at the height of holiday shopping.”

See where I’m going?

You can check real-time noise, vibration and air quality monitors for Losee Park, The Quay, South Broadway and RiverWalk in Westchester County.  The latest addition is Salisbury Point in Rockland County; additional locations will include River Road in Grand View.

We’re building a new bridge so what happened in Washington state never, ever happens here.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

Anything Is Possible

Calvin and Hobbes

Rockland County will have monitors beginning next week, too, similar to the ones telling Westchester County residents near the bridge about vibration, noise, and air quality.  Pile driving continues; and maybe it can be included in the local news reports (hint, hint).  Check out the data here.

This morning’s Mass Transit Task Force meeting for the public (that’s us) was maybe 40 minutes, and revealing. We learned it’s time for a wedding — transit ideas and funding options will finally merge so leisurely motorists, truckers and commuters can drive happily ever after.

There’s a catch.  New York State has to raise money against the actual cost, and still a funding plan remains invisible to the public.  A percent will come from the TIFIA loan and tolls — do I hear precedent? 

♫ ♪ Open a new window, open a new door, travel a new highway that’s never been tried before . . . ♫ ♪

It has been a trying time for some municipalities struggling to pass budgets within the 2% tax cap limit.  More tax?  I feel it’s time for the committee to decide what it wants to do, see what money is available right now, and calculate how much more is needed — before it talks about ways to raise that money (funding options).

It’s also been frustrating for Clarkstown, which still has no representation at this table; Town Planner Joe Simoes was there to say why the town deserves a seat. To quote my friend Danny, “And why not?”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

Rockland County and (unrelated) Tunnel History

Sign indicating Exit 12 off the New York State Thruway is © 2001, Jeff Saltzman. All rights reserved.

Sign indicating Exit 12 off the New York State Thruway is © 2001, Jeff Saltzman. All rights reserved.

I’ve been paying attention to the staging area by Exit 10, the lanes of traffic in each direction, and a bus rapid transit lane (in my mind’s eye). Since I wrote about the tunnel in Westchester County, I’ll show where it would have been built here.

Exit 12 (West Nyack – NY Route 303 – Palisades Center Drive) is home to the mall — which sees me a lot more since JCPenney® moved out of White Plains — and a very busy intersection. How to imagine a tunnel opening here?

So I’ll talk about one instead, and leave Rockland County’s bridge-bordering landscape unscathed on paper.

Formally named the Clifford Milburn Holland Tunnel, after its first chief engineer, the Holland Tunnel was initially called the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel or the Canal Street Tunnel. Once the longest underwater tunnel for (all together now) vehicles, it was the first ever with a ventilation system that could specifically handle car and truck exhaust fumes.

The $54 million price tag included two tubes — 1.62-mile north and a 1.58-mile south — that combined are slightly longer than the three-mile Tappan Zee Bridge ($80.8 million, including structure and approaches).

Back then, the process for bidding and contracts was very different; Governor Andrew Cuomo signed design-build legislation in December 2011.

Holland and his team overcame many previously unsolved tunnel engineering problems, however he died before the tunnel was finished. Eerily, his successor, Milton Freeman, died five months later, and the project was completed under its third chief engineer, Ole Singstad.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Metropolitan Section said Holland — its director from 1922 until his death — had a nervous breakdown five years into the project “as a result of the tremendous stress demanded by the work, having spent long hours working at this desk and in the compressed air of the tubes.”

Oh no!

He was sent to a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, for rest and died of heart disease “just two days before the tunnel was to be holed through.” The planned celebration was cancelled, and the two sides “were joined together without fanfare, even though Holland’s mathematical calculations led them to meeting within a fraction of an inch (1 cm) of each other.”

Yet according to the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, “In 1924, just one day before the two sides were scheduled to meet, Holland died at the age of 41 from complications during a tonsillectomy.”

Not only was the tunnel calculation off; the date and circumstances surrounding Holland’s death didn’t match, and the tunnel bearing his name opened twice (on November 12, 1927, per the ASCE Metropolitan Section, and the following day, according to The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey).

Remember, plans began in 1906 with the appointment of joint commissions in New York and New Jersey to build a Hudson River crossing. It was full steam ahead after a March 31, 1922, groundbreaking ceremony at the foot of Canal Street; the Holland Tunnel opened more than five years later.

We’re talking about a structure slightly more than half the length of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

New News and My Thoughts

Road markers credit Steve Alpert

Above are road markers approaching the divergence of I-87/I-287 (Cross Westchester Expressway) heading east from the Tappan Zee Bridge. Photo credit below.

Soil samples — required of any project that includes excavation work, in order to verify the soil content for proper disposal or reuse — began nearly two weeks ago within the Thruway’s right-of-ways, per a New York State Thruway Authority April 26 press release. A more recent press release said that work will begin on the Westchester trestle, the first of the project’s temporary work trestles to be constructed, on May 6.

Now comes good news — construction monitoring devices that let residents know when vibration, noise, and air quality go awry were installed and will be in place until 2018 or thereabouts.  If the sound is too high, the contractor will have one hour to correct the cause if the sound is over the top, er, limit.

What sounds over the top, to me, is that faint rumbling (no pun intended) about the discarded tunnel idea, and the louder to-do about why there’s no mass transit planned for the new bridge.

Last year, New York State Thruway executive director Thomas Madison dispelled a misconception during a community outreach meeting at the Tarrytown Senior Center.

“It’s important to point out here the thought that no thought was given to mass transit is not exactly accurate,” Madison said. “We had to deal with the economic resources available today and are doing the best we can at this time without precluding it.”

And why won’t a tunnel work? ARUP engineering principal Mark Roche explained it very clearly.

“(It) needs to go from Interchange (Exit) 12 to (Interchange) Exit 8 and needs to be seven miles long,” Roche said, “and misses 9, 10, 11.” This would affect businesses and residents in between the two farthest points, and “does not work on this topography. It (tunnel) doesn’t make sense here.”

Exit 8 credit Steve Alpert

Signs indicating that same divergence, and of the road markers, are credited to Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

Tell me again, please, where would this tunnel be built?

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

A Plus B Might Equal C

math

Math and I get along well on an as-needed basis – balancing my checkbook, paying monthly bills within a limited budget and income, etc.  In my previous post, I said I shop with a dollar amount in mind and try to find something within that amount.  There are times, though, when I do use my credit card – for example, car repairs, or a new digital camera – and pay the balance during the ensuing months.

Let’s apply this to the bridge replacement project:  $3.9 billion minus around $1.5 billion . . . wait a minute.  My math teacher never taught “A plus almost B equals C” in class.  We learned known amounts.  New York State could, and did, apply for up to 49% of the project’s eligible costs, potentially up to $2 billion.

How much money is around $1.5 billion?  Is it that an exact amount, more or less?

The state’s TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan application is undergoing a creditworthiness review by an independent financial advisor hired by the US Department of Transportation.

Project cost shares eligible for TIFIA coverage were previously limited to 33%, according to Federal Highway Administration spokeswoman Nancy Singer.  If the bridge replacement project is being advanced through the review process based on that percentage, then 33% of $3.9 billion is $1.287 billion.

The state needs to find alternate sources of revenue (translated:  new money) to pay for this bridge.  I’ve attended the past three Mass Transit Task Force meetings (open to the public) and have heard nothing about commercial vehicles using the bridge.  Per the Thruway Fact Book:

In Westchester County, the Thruway connects the Connecticut Turnpike at the terminus of its New England Section (I-95) in Port Chester.  In Rockland County, Interstate 287 near Suffern connects with major highways in New Jersey, including the Garden State Parkway at the New Jersey-New York line in Chestnut Ridge (although no trucks are allowed on the GSP in NJ).

Thank you, Governor Andrew Cuomo, for suggesting that residents of these two counties, whether or not they commute daily, receive fare discounts.  While the 45% toll hike for trucks won’t happen on the 570-mile Thruway, I feel commercial vehicles deserve to pay more – at least on the new bridge.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2013

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