Archive for the ‘Mass Transit Task Force’ Category

Exit to Exit: a Whole Lotta Traffic In-between

You can see traffic slogging along westbound per EarthCam® camera at Westch. landing

Memorial Day Weekend. The. Westbound. Span. Should. Have. Been. Opened.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda says nothing about the fact that it hasn’t and isn’t.

During a late afternoon drove to Rockland for copies of this week’s Rockland County Times, which has my story about a woman who advocates for senior housing and safety at home, I got stuck in traffic.

I’m home waiting for a FedEx delivery that requires a signature so I’ll tell you about yesterday’s driving experience.

Silly me. It’s a holiday weekend, and the vehicular madness was well underway by the time I merged onto crowded, no, packed, 287 from the Sprain. Inching from Exit 2 to Exit 1 was a challenge; once on the Thruway, it took about 20 minutes to drive from Exit 9 (Tarrytown) to Exit 10 (South Nyack).

I miss Ramp E, the South Broadway (Route 9) entrance ramp to the bridge in Tarrytown. I really miss it when I’m in that area and have to travel west as its absence continues to cause traffic nightmares.

In its place the state is building a new facility, which drivers and I saw from the other side:

It’s ironic that the new bridge will change nothing about congestion choking 287 on its own and as arteries, like Westchester Avenue and the Sprain, merge onto it. This new bridge will offer cars and trucks — they NEED to be in their own lane! — an easy, breezy 3.1 miles of travel until bridge meets land, and the madness continues in Rockland.

What gives? The westbound span was set to open last December 2016, then in early 2017. Somewhere, sometime, project officials starting saying the bridge, shared use path (including in South Nyack), maintenance facility and new state police barracks will open in 2018.

When the super crane arrived at the project site in October 2014, Governor Cuomo held a press conference and was asked about potential tolls.

“We don’t know how much we will we get from the federal government, how much we will get from the state; there are state loans and grants we can access,” he said, citing the variables. Additional unknowns are the built-in contract incentives for Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) to finish the project before spring 2018 or penalties for completing it later.

Spring 2018 is 12 months from now, which is nearly summer if you consider it’s Memorial Day Weekend and an unofficial start of summer.

So crews need to finish the whole shebang before June 21, 2018, the real start of summer. Will the bridge builder be penalized for finishing the project one day later? Stay tuned.

It’s too bad New York State made this into a bridge project instead of sticking to a corridor project. The 287 construction was finished nine months ahead of schedule, and I’m sure (though I don’t remember) traffic “flowing smoothly” four or five years ago.

Several people working on the project told me it would be impossible to widen 287. What was the point of building a bridge between two congested highways without considering the motorists who use them?

I covered the Mass Transit Task Force meetings, where this exchange took place during the final get-together:

“Who will take the initiative to make sure the recommendations will move forward?” State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (88th District) asked. State DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald replied, “Our charge was to make recommendations. It’s up to the governor and the Thruway Authority to see what are the next steps.”

The governor said on January 29, 2013 — 11 days after the bridge builder received the A-OK to begin — that completion of 287’s reconstruction and the bridge project represent how his administration cut through government dysfunction. It’s all well and good to have plans; however, as my mom’s cousin Helen used to say, “You have to look down the road a piece.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2017

Three Lanes in Each Direction, Traffic Congestion

ice cream stand

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a ride in the country, and we had a terrific time!

* * * * *

west on the ThruwayMy friend and I left later than planned for our day trip upstate. Some define “upstate” as Westchester, some as Rockland. We planned to take Exit 16 and agreed it starts (for us) somewhere around New Paltz or Kingstson (Exits 18 or 19) off the Thruway.

It took us less time to get from my friend’s house to 287 near Exit 2 (I took the Sprain) than it did to get from that point to the bridge’s approach span. Given that it was Father’s Day, we anticipated some traffic; this amount was ridiculous.

trafficRecently I followed an online discussion and traffic on the Thruway and what happens when the new bridge is completed. Those were my thoughts as I drove; she read my mind and asked what happens if the Thruway remains three lanes in each direction?

Above is what we saw past Exit 9 westbound around 1:30 p.m. yesterday.

east on the Thruway Doesn’t look so bad, right? Probably not, compared to what happened when we were past Exit 15 on the way home (around 7 p.m.), where traffic crawled from there to bridge for the next 45 minutes. As I drove we took turns commenting about the traffic. “What’s going to happen when the bridge opens?”

Stop-and-go traffic continued until Exit 10 (left) and across the bridge to exit Exit 9. We talkI told her about the corridor project that became the bridge project.

east on the Thruway 2A partial answer to the congestion west of the bridge in Rockland and east of it in Westchester is a new bus rapid transit system. While not an expansion, this solution was discussed last year, and money to implement it was infused months later.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

No TZB Fare Hike in 2016; Toll Task Force in Place

Discounts ahead for local residents, commuters?/Rani Levi

Discounts ahead for local residents, commuters?/Rani Levi

For the sixth consecutive year tolls, including the bridge, will remain unchanged, Thruway Authority Executive Director Robert Megna told its Board yesterday.

“Given our success in balancing the Thruway’s budget and the infusion of additional funding from Governor Cuomo, we have alleviated the need to implement a toll increase for the remainder of 2015 and for all of 2016,” Megna said.

Contributing are a $1.285 billion boost to the Thruway Stabilization Fund — $750 million to the bridge project — included in the 2015-16 state budget, and the $1.6 billion TIFIA loan signed in December 2013.

The agency said independent traffic engineering forecasts “include significant upward revisions from the previous forecast submitted in May 2015. The 2016 budget forecast shows a traffic growth of 3.4 million vehicles or 1.3 percent above 2015.” More vehicles (259.3 million) equal more revenue.

Signs informing drivers of toll plaza lanes/Courtesy of Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

Signs informing drivers of toll plaza lanes/Courtesy of Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

More news: the toll advisory task force is now a reality and has until mid-2016 to brainstorm toll reviews, potential commuter discount options, a resident discount program and commercial vehicle rates. Governor Cuomo spoke about a resident discount early on; I’ve always felt commercial vehicles using the bridge deserve to pay more.

Megna and state Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll will co-chair the group, which will meet monthly, ask for public input and report its findings in mid-2016.

Albany mayor Gerald D. Jennings; Matthew Rand, managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens, Rand Realty, Rand Commercial Services and Hudson United Home Services; former state Department of Transportation commissioner Joan McDonald; Lawrence C. Salley, Chairman of the White Plains Housing Authority and former Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Transportation; and former NYC comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

Newly named Executive Project Engineer Jamey Barbas, P.E. has more than 30 years of experience in bridge management, design, construction and inspection with a special emphasis on complex and long span bridges. Project Manager Peter Sanderson will analyze critical issues associated with construction phases.

The website has a new look. I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Bus Rapid Transit System Gets $10 Million Grant

Link-MainlineSixteen months after it recommended rapid transit when the new bridge opens in 2018, the transit task force rolled out Phase 1 — a $91 million Suffern-Tarrytown-White Plains line — in late June.

Earlier this week the plans received a $10 million federal grant.

After last year’s application for a $26.7 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant through the US DOT was not approved, the state DOT resubmitted its application for $20.4 million in TIGER funds, as Deputy Secretary for Transportation Ron Thaniel noted at the May New NY Bridge community meeting.

Here’s what happened when the transit task force reconvened this past summer:

State Office of Traffic Safety and Mobility Director Todd Westhuis is spearheading the project to revamp the Tappan ZEExpress bus service for the line and stops via new technology and transit management on Routes 59 Rockland and 119 (in lieu of dedicated bus lanes) and on I-287, signal priority and signal upgrades, ramp metering, and queue jump lanes.

Safety concerns along sections of Route 59 were identified using the US DOT’s “Safer People, Safer Streets” initiative via a pedestrian safety audit in Monsey and Spring Valley this past April.

Westhuis cited the Nanuet Park & Ride and upgrades to the Exit 14 Park & Ride facility. “All three lots there need improvement (to ensure) safe pedestrian passage to and from those lots and connect them to the corridor and improve transit access to that lot, in particular the BRT system to come,” he said.

A design is expected by fall, a lighting plan will be submitted by year’s end, and construction will begin next spring. “This lot is a key point identified in a study last year (by ARUP; see Rockland County Times story March 6, 2014), and it’s an area where we saw a high potential,” State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said.

Corridor will have an extensive BRT system in place by 2018./NYS Thruway Authority

Corridor will have an extensive BRT system in place by 2018./NYS Thruway Authority

There will be quicker access to the new transit system in Tarrytown, improvements to its Metro North train station and pick-up points within the village. Discussions with village officials identified the following needs; a contract will be awarded by year’s end to make sure changes are put in place.

“Our assumptions for this implementation are going to be checked against peers with similar programs nationwide,” Westhuis said. “Integrated corridor management (ICM) is a component of the BRT system.”

Total cost for upgrading the system is $159.5 million; each route/increment can be done individually or collectively.

While Tri–State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool approved of initial plans, she’d like to see projected timelines for all routes.

“We made a very strategic decision to break these down into increments,” McDonald replied citing one route/increment — Spring Valley to Tarrytown — is approximately $12.5 million (four new stations and one new vehicle) and another — White Plains to the Bronx via Central Avenue — is $43 million (44 new stations, 15 new vehicles).

“Finding $12 million is generally easier than finding $43 million,” she said.

Capital-CostsUpgrades to transit hub White Plains train station are in two phases; the first is a traffic circulation study, improving temporary station access and pedestrian access, the second is a compete redesign and reconstruction of the station, including the 19 acres of land owned by White Plains for mixed-use development.

Rockland County Legislator Harriet Cornell asked how the new system will be managed and operated. “I’m a great believer in collaboration, but perhaps there needs to be a ‘superpower’ to manage the entire system, not each county individually,” she said.

Vanterpool wants the group to convene regularly; McDonald said the task force had a finite end. “We had policy issues as well as operational and capital issues to discuss. A lot of detail work was done in the past year, and we weren’t ready to discuss where we were at (an earlier) time.”

From the DOT standpoint, she said, “we are committed to updating this group at the right moment in time.”

After the meeting the Rockland County Times spoke with McDonald.

“We’re working with local governments in some instances for this to be successful,” she said when asked about home rule. “Are you willing to give up four or five parking spaces on a route? That’s always a heated discussion.”

How will the new plans change traffic backups on 287 in both counties?

“We’re not just looking at it as BRT in isolation,” McDonald said. “We’re looking at the whole corridor, and that’s why some of these technologies — queue jumping, signal override — will help us to make those adjustments and to make it successful for everybody.”

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times July 2, 2015.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Coming in 2018: Thruway Corridor Improvements and a Streamlined Transit System

Link-MainlineSixteen months after it recommended rapid transit when the new bridge opens in 2018, the transit task force rolled out Phase 1 — a $91 million Suffern-Tarrytown-White Plains line — last week.

At his first such public meeting after the State Senate approved him mid-June, Thruway Authority Executive Director, Robert L. Megna joked about hoping for a lot of ‘no’ votes.

“That didn’t happen,” Megna said.

State Office of Traffic Safety and Mobility Director Todd Westhuis is spearheading the project to revamp the Tappan ZEExpress bus service for the line and stops via new technology and transit management on Routes 59 Rockland and 119 (in lieu of dedicated bus lanes) and on I-287, signal priority and signal upgrades, ramp metering, and queue jump lanes.

Safety concerns along sections of Route 59 were identified using the US DOT’s “Safer People, Safer Streets” initiative via a pedestrian safety audit in Monsey and Spring Valley this past April.

Westhuis cited the Nanuet Park & Ride and upgrades to the Exit 14 Park & Ride facility. “All three lots there need improvement (to ensure) safe pedestrian passage to and from those lots and connect them to the corridor and improve transit access to that lot, in particular the BRT system to come,” he said.

A design is expected by fall, a lighting plan will be submitted by year’s end, and construction will begin next spring. “This lot is a key point identified in a study last year (by ARUP; see Rockland County Times story March 6, 2014), and it’s an area where we saw a high potential,” State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said.

One of several TAPPAN ZEExpress buses waits for commuters at Tarrytown Train Station while a car exits the H-Bridge in opposite direction

An extensive BRT system replacing the current service will be in place when the new bridge opens in 2018.

An extensive BRT system replacing the current service will be in place when the new bridge opens in 2018.

There will be quicker access to the new transit system in Tarrytown, improvements to its Metro North train station and pick-up points within the village. Discussions with village officials identified the following needs; a contract will be awarded by year’s end to make sure changes are put in place.

“Our assumptions for this implementation are going to be checked against peers with similar programs nationwide,” Westhuis said. “Integrated corridor management (ICM) is a component of the BRT system.”

After last year’s application for a $26.7 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant through the US DOT was not approved, the state DOT resubmitted its application for $20.4 million in TIGER funds, as Deputy Secretary for Transportation Ron Thaniel noted at the May New NY Bridge community meeting.

Total cost for upgrading the system is $159.5 million; each route/increment can be done individually or collectively.

While TriState Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool approved of initial plans, she’d like to see projected timelines for all routes.

“We made a very strategic decision to break these down into increments,” McDonald replied citing one route/increment — Spring Valley to Tarrytown — is approximately $12.5 million (four new stations and one new vehicle) and another — White Plains to the Bronx via Central Avenue — is $43 million (44 new stations, 15 new vehicles).

“Finding $12 million is generally easier than finding $43 million,” she said.

Capital-CostsUpgrades to transit hub White Plains train station are in two phases; the first is a traffic circulation study, improving temporary station access and pedestrian access, the second is a compete redesign and reconstruction of the station, including the 19 acres of land owned by White Plains for mixed-use development.

Rockland County Legislator Harriet Cornell asked how the new system will be managed and operated. “I’m a great believer in collaboration, but perhaps there needs to be a ‘superpower’ to manage the entire system, not each county individually,” she said.

Vanterpool wants the group to convene regularly; McDonald said the task force had a finite end. “We had policy issues as well as operational and capital issues to discuss. A lot of detail work was done in the past year, and we weren’t ready to discuss where we were at (an earlier) time.”

From the DOT standpoint, she said, “we are committed to updating this group at the right moment in time.”

After the meeting the Rockland County Times spoke with McDonald.

“We’re working with local governments in some instances for this to be successful,” she said when asked about home rule. “Are you willing to give up four or five parking spaces on a route? That’s always a heated discussion.”

How will the new plans change traffic backups on 287 in both counties?

“We’re not just looking at it as BRT in isolation,” McDonald said. “We’re looking at the whole corridor, and that’s why some of these technologies — queue jumping, signal override — will help us to make those adjustments and to make it successful for everybody.”

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times July 2, 2015.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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