Archive for December, 2015|Monthly archive page

Free Coffee & Tea Tonight to Thruway Drivers

New NY Bridge mug1

All lanes are open through January 3 of next year — a few days from now — in accordance with Governor Cuomo’s Drivers First Initiative.

If you’re on the Thruway and need to take five or stretch your legs, then stop at any of its 27 travel plazas for free hot coffee and tea from 11 p.m. tonight until 7 a.m. tomorrow morning.

“Thruway’s New Year’s Eve tradition is an excellent way to encourage motorists to take a break during their travels and to promote safe driving during the busy holiday season,” said Thruway Authority Executive Director Robert L. Megna. “It is crucial that motorists stay alert and drive safely not only during the holidays, but year round.”

Reminder: there is no stopping along highway shoulders except in emergencies. For real-time info about traffic conditions on the 570-mile highway, click here.

Wishing you happy and healthy New Year! May the best of last year be the worst of next, and remember, please don’t drink and drive.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Recapping the 2015 Year in Bridge

birthday-1-700x525While the New NY Bridge project had its “firsts” the Tappan Zee Bridge took center stage when kids at one elementary school made birthday cards and a banner. Last summer I wrote about how the Quonset hut used by those who built the bridge is tied into its history.

I enjoyed working with Brian Conybeare, who resigned in October, and I look forward to working with new Director of Communications Khurram Saeed.

tableEducational outreach is highlighted in the premier issue of CRIXEO Magazine, a subsidiary of Medallion Media Group (publication date early 2016). There’s more: look for the New NY Bridge project next month in Westchester Magazine’s Ultimate Guide 2016. Guess who wrote both?

With the Nyack viewing area open — it was the most popular post on this blog! — what’s difficult to see while driving is clearly visible from the shore via monoculars . . . speaking of which, the project’s website got a new look.

Prof. Ted Zoli talks abt pile cap placement/© J Rosman 2015

Prof. Ted Zoli talks abt pile cap placement/© J Rosman 2015

Despite a close call with seasickness I breathed enough clean air to capture the I Lift NY super crane’s first lift and placement. Neither that nor nasty weather weeks earlier deterred me from watching as part of the state trooper’s barracks was demolished.

No matter that we wait to drive on the first span; outgoing Executive Director Robert L. Megna told the Thruway Authority Board the new bridge will open in 2018 for less than $4 billion ($3.98 billion to be exact).

barge removed2Another exciting day was watching the crane place the first girder assembly. Other milestones: Phase 1 pile driving was completed in June, we saw the start of main span tower construction, planned dredging was done by September, and the first concrete deck panel was put in place.

The steel girder assemblies reached a one-mile point from the Rockland shoreline, the first concrete road deck panels were placed, and the crane made its first girder assembly placement for the westbound span (we’ll drive on this next year).

The toll advisory task force and a new executive project engineer were named.

Aided by blue jump forms, the towers gradually rise./NYSTA

Aided by blue jump forms, the towers gradually rise./NYSTA

As the towers were rising in September the Thruway’s response to my FOIL request about last year’s concrete batch plant mishap was continuously delayed . . . until the Thruway Authority decided it was (a) too close for comfort and asked to make it go away or (b) really didn’t have the information I’d been looking for since last December.

Dropping its appeal to use Clean Water Funds didn’t free the state from Riverkeeper, Inc.’s watch: earlier this month it put the Thruway Authority and the bridge builder on legal notice about increased Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon death.

It numbered days will include one last winter, per Megna’s decision to postpone opening the first span until spring 2017. Year four officially starts January 18.

Did I miss something? I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Kaleidoscope Eyes: 2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog. Many thanks to you for your comments and thoughts, and for reading here.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Riverkeeper Gives Thruway Authority and Bridge Builder Notice of Pending Lawsuit

These aerial photos taken in 2013 and 2015 show how Tappan Zee Bridge project activities have caused the resuspension of bottom sediments, causing plumes of turbid water, in visible contrast to natural conditions of the Hudson River estuary./Lee Ross

These aerial photos taken in 2013 and 2015 show how Tappan Zee Bridge project activities have caused the resuspension of bottom sediments, causing plumes of turbid water, in visible contrast to natural conditions of the Hudson River estuary./Lee Ross

Watchdog group Riverkeeper, Inc. put the Thruway Authority and Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC on a 60-day notice of intent to sue (collectively “Project Owners”) as permittee and contractor, respectively, responsible for project activities.

The notice contends the “Projects Owners violated their Incidental Take Statement and the Environmental Species Act (ESA) by causing the illegal take of Atlantic and shortnose sturgeons in the Hudson River Estuary.”

Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said the group intends to hold the state to its promise for “the most environmentally friendly bridge construction project ever” as it has on three previous occasions. “This project simply cannot be built on the backs of the endangered, iconic Hudson River sturgeon.”

“There is no credible scientific evidence that the project activities have negatively impacted the sturgeon populations,” Thruway Authority spokesperson Jennifer Givner said Saturday via statement.

Givner said since construction began (in January 2013) “the project team has taken unprecedented measures to protect endangered sturgeon and other aquatic life in the Hudson River and reduce resuspension of sediments due to vessel movements.”

These include using bubble curtains during pile driving to reduce underwater noise, extensively monitoring, tracking and studying sturgeon habitat, armoring the construction and dredge access channel, and substantially monitoring water quality.

Gallay disagreed. “There is no other credible explanation for the 20-fold increase in reported mortality of endangered sturgeon since construction began,” he said.

The original permission given the Thruway by National Marine Fisheries Service allowed killing two Atlantic and two shortnose sturgeon during the entire five-year project based upon the best available science on the critically-low sturgeon populations in coastal waters and the Hudson Estuary.

These aerial photos taken in 2013 and 2015 show how Tappan Zee Bridge project activities have caused the resuspension of bottom sediments, causing plumes of turbid water, in visible contrast to natural conditions of the Hudson River estuary./Lee Ross

These aerial photos taken in 2013 and 2015 show how Tappan Zee Bridge project activities have caused the resuspension of bottom sediments, causing plumes of turbid water, in visible contrast to natural conditions of the Hudson River estuary./Lee Ross

Riverkeeper maintained no progress can be made to further protect federally endangered sturgeon so long as the Authority denies evidence that let NMFS to reinitiate an ESA review of the project’s impact. Its notice “relates to clear and repeated violations of the NYS DEC permit which specifies that project related activity of any kind must not re-suspend contaminated river bottom sediments beyond a 500 foot permitted mixing zone.”

An aerial photographer documents numerous occasions when this zone “has been greatly exceeded. This issue is cut and dried. The photographs don’t lie.” In a necropsy report dated June 26, 2015, Cornell scientists said a dead sturgeon was discovered on June 4, 2015, by Tappan Zee constructors approximately one mile upstream of construction activities for the New NY Bridge at Tappan Zee.

In July Riverkeeper called upon the National Marine Fisheries Service to act immediately and protect the Hudson River fish while investigating an increase in sturgeon fatalities. It describes a massive injury to the Atlantic sturgeon and states: “What caused this trauma is unknown. One possibility, given the appearance of sharp force trauma, would be a watercraft propeller,” the scientists said.

Riverkeeper said in the four years prior to construction, six dead sturgeon were reported, and since construction started, 122 were reported.

It said necropsies on two sturgeon recovered by bridge construction crews close to the construction site in June 2015 (Atlantic sturgeon) and August 2015 (shortnose sturgeon), found that the deaths were likely caused by vessel strikes. A third sturgeon (shortnose) found by construction crews, in May 2014, was deemed possibly killed by a vessel strike.

In 2013, when construction began in earnest, 25 sturgeon deaths were reported. In 2014, 43 were reported. And so far in 2015, 46 have been reported.

The Authority maintained vessel strikes caused by propellers are more likely caused by the thousands of non-project related recreational and commercial vessels and not to the project’s 40 propeller driven vessels, and said reported sturgeon mortalities happen throughout the Hudson River, not specifically in the project area.

Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc., representing Riverkeeper in this matter, said it “would be willing to discuss effective remedies for the violations noted in this letter.” If the Thruway Authority and TZC want to settle, then they must initiate discussion within 10 days of receiving the letter to arrange a meeting and complete negotiations before the 60-day period ends.

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times December 24, 2015.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Linus, the Hudson Valley has a Great Pumpkin

Why not combine holidays since it was colder on October 31, 2015. Photo credit: WHUD

Why not combine holidays since it was colder on October 31, 2015. Photo credit: WHUD

The station’s logo is the bridge, which makes this a triple celebration since the bridge turned 60 last week. One of the DJs told me the logo was painted on the pumpkin for fall, and since the weather hadn’t gotten really cold yet, the resilient fruit — you thought it was a vegetable, didn’t you? so did I! — sailed past Halloween and Thanksgiving and looks good nearing Christmas and the New Year.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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