Seeking Federal Intervention on a State Project

Landscape architect Kathryn Wolf’s drawing of proposed shared use path terminus (from March 20 meeting)/ Credit Trowbridge Wolf Michaels, Landscape Architects

Landscape architect Kathryn Wolf’s drawing of proposed shared use path terminus (from March 20 meeting)/ Credit Trowbridge Wolf Michaels, Landscape Architects

“The State has told us they can’t wait for our study because the Federal funding for the new bridge requires that the path open when the bridge opens,” South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian told her community and other elected officials two weeks ago.

“Therefore we have submitted a formal request on our behalf to the Federal Government for a temporary waiver of that requirement, to give us time to complete our study.” Plans must “provide sensible solutions that work for South Nyack and are accepted by its residents,” she said.

I contacted the Federal Highway Administration with questions.

Does funding require that the shared use path opens when the New NY Bridge opens?

“No,” FHWA spokesman Doug Hecox said.

South Nyack submitted a formal request on its behalf to the federal government for a temporary waiver of a requirement. Has the agency received this request? Can it be granted?

“The FHWA has received the request, and it is currently being reviewed,” Hecox said.

“Can the federal government delay the South Nyack terminus from opening when the bridge opens?” I asked.

“Do mean can the federal government intervene?” Hecox reiterated.

“Yes,” I said. “What if all 3,500 residents of South Nyack signed a petition, got an attorney, and went to Washington, DC?”

“If the state decides it wants to make a change to the project, then it would have to begin the process of amending the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), the primary document of record for the decision,” he said.

This federal process for evaluating the environmental or other impacts on historical or other protected properties “is not done without the state’s invitation,” Hecox said.

(See Question 11: How is the environmental review process for a transportation project initiated? on this page.)

Painters Point

While the $1.6 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan secured one year ago December “does not require a shared use path, one of the project needs identified for the bridge in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was to improve the multi-modal connectivity across the Hudson,” Hecox said via email.

Following the public involvement process, the Joint Record of Decision (ROD) — approved by the FHWA, the Thruway Authority and the state Department of Transportation — included the shared use path, which meets the need for multi-modal connection across the river. “It’s an integral part of the approved project.”

The bike/walking path is not a TIFIA loan requirement.

If I heard back from the agency quickly, then surely the village did, too. Less than one hour later after receiving Hecox’s email I contacted South Nyack village officials and members of the task force.

“I’m following up on last week’s meeting and the village’s letter to the Federal Highway Administration requesting a temporary waiver to allow it to complete its feasibility study,” my email said. “What has the FHWA said in response? What other action* is the village taking?”

*Grammatical error changed here.

None of the names below replied:

bonnie.christian@southnyack.ny.gov, alain.leinbach@southnyack.ny.gov, catherine.mccue@southnyack.ny.gov, jerry.ilowite@southnyack.ny.gov, andrew.goodwillie@southnyack.ny.gov, LowHogan@co.rockland.ny.us, Greg.Toolan@southnyack.ny.gov, connie.coker@southnyack.ny.gov, Richard.Kohlhausen@southnyack.ny.gov, Nancy.Willen@southnyack.ny.gov

Numerous officials, including those noted in this article, express concerns about safety. I wonder if they were contacted for input prior to last year’s meeting? If village officials and/or task force members choose to contact me, then I’ll be glad to include their comments in another blog post.

This post originally appeared in the Rockland County Times March 4, 2015. More recently the village said it contacted New York’s Congressional Senators for help.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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