Archive for December, 2019|Monthly archive page

Second Outreach Center closes; New Exit 10; SUP Work continues; Toll Relief for Local Residents

What remained of the Tappan Zee Bridge lingered into 2019: its east anchor span was to be demolished, then weather intervened, and then it happened. A new configuration to Thruway Exit 10 eliminated a portion of the loop, where motorists could exit to Clinton Avenue; second and third traffic patterns for the exit were to follow.

Work continued on the westbound span’s path and connecting spur path, the old bridge’s supports were disappearing, and four Peregrine falcon chicks needed names. The west anchor span was removed, local students named the chicks, new webcams showed progress on the landings, and my mom took her first car trip across the new bridge.

Low turnout was reported at July’s toll advisory panel meetings; ArtsWestchester and the Thruway Authority asked artists to propose ideas for a mural and bicycle racks. A broken car on en route to the iconic concert 50 years ago became a “how we met” story for their children and grandchildren.

Come fall, New Yorkers chose a new state license plate (some wanted the design above, which was not one of the five choices), and further changes were made to Exit 10 yet did not relieve traffic. People noticed the I Lift NY left the project site five years after its arrival in Piermont.

A completely reconfigured Exit 10 opened in early October, one scenic overlook was completed the following month, and residents of bridge-bordering counties learned about minimal future toll increases. Although the Nyack Outreach Center closed this month, educational programs continue into spring/summer.

The path, its hours to be determined, is expected to open sometime next year.

It would have been wiser not to leave my hat on the bus: temps were freezing that day! Photo/Gov. Cuomo’s staff

I’ve covered this story since March 2012, when an editor sent me to hear residents’ concerns in Tarrytown. Plans for the project’s anticipated progress — detailed in subsequent meetings — became reality with each turn of the calendar. Freelance reporting is pure joy and sometimes challenging, and this has been both.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2019

Second Outreach Center Closes; SUP Progressing

There’s an empty space on Main Street in Nyack, where one Outreach Center had been since early 2013. If you thought they posed with a cross steel section of pile for a reason, then you were right. It was moving out day; both Centers are now part of the project’s history (Tarrytown closed last year).

I parked on Clinton Avenue to see the Esposito Trail and side path, separated by a divider and newly-planted young trees (November 15 per the tags around those I checked). A young boy was bicycling in the center of the trail while his father ran in the center of the new spur path.

Local cycling groups want the path open 24/7, claiming it’s a transportation mode to which they need uninterrupted access. Hours have not been decided.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2019

Good News for Westchester and Rockland Residents: Minimal Toll Raises on New Bridge

Commuters and residents see the bridge as the most convenient way to get across the river; the Thruway Authority views it as part of a bigger revenue picture. Yet its members heard Westchester and Rockland residents explain how toll increases would impact them “loud and clear,” Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said at the agency’s Board of Directors meeting December 19.

As tolls have not increased since 2010 and were frozen through 2020, the $.50 annual increase during the next two years for New York E-ZPass® drivers brings a sigh a relief: costs will only rise from $4.75 to $5.25 in 2021 and to $5.75 in 2022. The Board proposed a 40 percent discount to commuters at the New York E-ZPass® rate and a new program for Westchester and Rockland residents with no toll increases through 2022 for those who qualify.

Citing speculation about soaring toll hikes on the new bridge, Thruway Authority Chief Financial Officer Matthew A. Howard revealed the numbers and said the policy is “very consistent” with what other states have done with cashless tolling and will apply throughout the 570-mile Thruway system.

Those without E-ZPass® (who pay by mail) will see a 30 percent increase from the current $5 or $6.83 in 2021 and $7.48 in 2022 and will have an added $2 surcharge. “The key to all of this is get E-ZPass®, and your tolls outside of the bridge will be unchanged,” Howard reminded.

He emphasized, “It’s really important to note that under the plan, 45 percent of the traffic on the bridge will be receiving a commuter, a resident or a new resident discount in 2022, paying $5.75 or less. When you incorporate the discounts that are standard New York E-ZPass® rate customers receive, basically 74 percent of the traffic on the bridge in 2022 will be paying at a rate that’s $5.75 or less.”

Even without E-ZPass®, it’s not a double-digit fare and nowhere near the once-suggested $14.

After a public comment session about the proposed changes, recommendations will be made to the Board. Charts courtesy of the New York State Thruway Authority.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2019

Flashback Friday: Bridge Path Survey yields Different Views, Concerns for South Nyack

The walking and bicycle path is set to open within months (no date has been confirmed). Two and one-half years ago the project asked for input on the new bridge’s path; one sticky point was will it remain open 24/7, be open from dusk to dawn (that will change with the seasons) or have set hours? The debate continues as bicycling groups push for round-the-clock access to a path that will be monitored how? What about safety issues? Noise? Its side path opens into a quiet South Nyack neighborhood.

Catty-corner to the house Jessica Hans-Smolin shares with her husband, Pete Smolin, and their one-year-old, is where the Raymond G. Esposito Trail crosses Clinton Avenue. It’s also where the spur path and trail entrance for the new bridge’s path will be built.

“It’s not just about my backyard, nor many people’s yards,” Hans-Smolin said, speaking for the group Preserve South Nyack. “It’s about having a comprehensive plan with foresight to ensure safety, maintain the integrity of our residential community and respect South Nyack’s rich history.”

Citing a misconception that local residents aren’t in favor of the new bridge’s path, she clarified, “The controversy is where it ends, where it outputs, where it impacts on a trail in a community (and) mixed feelings about the additional spur path.”

Concept F—one of four plans presented to South Nyack by its Tappan Zee Bridge Task Force in December 2015—indicated a paved side path would be an advantage. Rockland County Times reported in February that PSN members voiced concern about the path throughout 2015 and 2016 and were told they’d be consulted as the timeline pertaining to the trail got closer.

The Task Force meets as needed with project officials, bringing recommendations to the board for consideration and “has a good relationship with the state and the Thruway Authority,” Mayor Bonnie Christian said. “We’re trying to do what’s best for our community while keeping the character and integrity of our village intact.”

Thanking the 2,200-plus people who participated in the project team’s recent 10-question survey, spokesman Khurram Saeed said in a statement, “Their input is enormously useful to help the team better understand how people plan to use the path as we continue to work on operational details, including way finding, hours and amenities.”

Encouraged that South Nyack resident was one of the survey’s responder options, Christian emphasized it’s a way to let the project team know a villager answered and doesn’t want the path open 24/7.

Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell agrees with her about curtailing path hours albeit for a different reason: he has yet to see that benefits outweigh potential negatives, while she stressed it would be unfair to — and potentially dangerous for — residents.

Trail head of walking/bicycle path and Esposito Trail/K. Wolf

“Though there may be some ‘good’ uses for it at 2 a.m., I can’t imagine the legitimate demand for it would justify the risks and potential costs,” Fixell said. “Perhaps we’ll find that there really is a lot of demand for crossing in the wee hours, but I don’t believe that keeping it open all night makes sense in advance of the demand being demonstrated.”

Metro North’s first Manhattan-bound train leaves Tarrytown at 4:45 a.m., and the last train arrives in Tarrytown from Grand Central Station at 2:43 a.m., begging the question: Will the path be available to late evening and early morning commuters?

“The idea of keeping it open only dawn to dusk (when the Esposito Trail is open) makes it unusable for anything but recreation,” Rockland Bicycling Club board member Mike Benowitz said. “The bridge is almost three miles across. Someone looking to cause trouble is not going to cross three miles.”

The New City resident takes the ferry from Haverstraw to Ossining, and, from there, bicycles to his job in White Plains. He feels closing the spur path from dusk to dawn would be better than closing the entire path overnight.

South Nyack neighbors worry about safety when the Lower Hudson Transit Link replaces the Tappan ZEExpress in fall 2018. Stops include the South Franklin Extension (within Interchange 10)—the bridge interchange—and at Artopee Way in Nyack.

“This is way too much traffic at one intersection in an exclusively residential community. We have a lot of young children here,” Hans-Smolin said, citing a recent block party where kids played freely.

Most recreational cyclists aren’t riding after dark, Benowitz said, and clubs that organize special rides will use a road and not the trail. “Large bicycle groups will avoid shared use areas,” Benowitz said. “You’re riding 15 miles an hour, and someone walking a dog turns around,” which might lead to a potential accident.

Christian and Police Chief Brent Newbury met recently with state officials to discuss the path’s safety and patrolling, Christian wrote in a July 7 update. Governor Cuomo’s office will work with Newbury and state troopers to ensure village safety concerns are satisfactorily addressed.

“It’s important to be a concerned citizen and be active as much as you possibly can,” Hans-Smolin reiterated. PSN feels if the (area around the) trail has to be developed despite its continuing efforts to save the green space, then it would like the spur path to close from dusk to dawn, and have path users be directed to exit at the Interchange 10 parking lot.

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times July 13, 2017.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2019

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