Editorial: Build the bridges!

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This editorial originally appeared on Sept. 14, 1968.

In an interview with Newsday, William J. Ronan, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that his agency is ready to build the Oyster Bay-Rye bridge over Long Island Sound “tomorrow.”

The final decision, however, rests, with the State Department of Transportation, which has been ordered by the Legislature to determine whether this bridge, or another linking the Port Jefferson area with Bridgeport, Conn., should be built first. The Oyster Bay Bridge, it appears, will be the first to get under way.

The fact is that both bridges should be built as soon as possible. The Oyster Bay span will speed traffic from eastern Queens and Nassau County to upstate New York instead of cramming it into the overloaded Whitestone and Throgs Neck crossings. But this bridge will do nothing to terminate the dead-end isolation of Long Island, in particular, eastern Suffolk.

A connection from Long Island to New England is essential. It will benefit both regions by opening the way for a free flow of traffic – for business, industry or tourism – between both regions. IN time, the eastern Suffolk bridge will help make all of Long Island a flourishing, self-supporting part of the populous eastern area stretching from Boston to Washington. Without such a bridge, Suffolk in particular, will fail to realize its potential for well-rounded and well-planned community development.

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Ronan suggests that the Nassau bridge be built first, in a matter of three years, and that part of its revenues be used to help finance the Suffolk span. He believes the eastern bridge, which is more remote from heavy traffic, would not by itself be able to pay off its construction bonds until it has been operating for some years. The two bridges, built simultaneously, would cost an estimated $400,000,000. If necessary, perhaps, the state could lend the MTA a portion of the cost of the Suffolk bridge, to be repaid at a later date.

Looking even further ahead, it seems apparent that another Suffolk bridge will be required before too many years have passed, to serve the estimated 2,000,000 people who will live in Suffolk by 1980. That bridge would run from the North Fork, generally, to Rhode Island or eastern Connecticut. With proper planning it could create a residential-recreation-business complex on eastern Long Island that would be a model for the nation.

Of course, any bridge to Connecticut requires the consent of that state’s legislature and governor. The governor of Connecticut has set up a commission to study the possibilities and to report to him. If Connecticut agrees to the construction, New York and Connecticut would then create a bistate commission to work out a location and location and financing for the bridge.

It is, of course, tempting to any public authority to give priority to those projects that seem certain to pay out promptly. The Oyster Bay-Rye bridge falls in this category; and, in addition, it is within the state, so that interstate agreements are not necessary. But sometimes public agencies must also undertake projects less financially promising at the start but solid in the long run. The Port Jefferson area bridge, especially, falls in the latter category.

The need is for action. We ask Gov. Rockefeller to provide that action, and to encourage the Connecticut officials to act promptly. The Oyster Bay-Rye bridge and the Port Jefferson area-Bridgeport bridge should be built as soon as possible.

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