Tappan Zee Bridge: Mass-transit task force named

A view of the Tappan Zee Bridge from A view of the Tappan Zee Bridge from the Riverwalk Park in Tarrytown. (Feb. 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Chris Serico

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The New York State Thruway Authority on Friday announced the creation of a 28-member task force to identify short and long-term solutions for adding mass transit to the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Task force members include the county executives from Rockland and Westchester counties and transportation advocates from the New York region.

They will have a year to make recommendations for adding bus and rail service on the bridge, state officials say. They'll also be looking into ways to finance the options.

Present plans for the new bridge include only a dedicated rush-hour bus lane. Key aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo have said the planned replacement will be built sturdily enough so that mass transit, including rail lines, can be added when funding becomes available.

Transportation advocates are pushing for more mass-transit options from the start, including bus lanes that would come off the bridge into a 13-mile corridor of surrounding towns.

Cuomo has stood fast against calls for adding mass transit to the initial project, saying that approach would cost billions and delay a ground-breaking scheduled for next year.

"At the same time that we are building this new bridge, the mass transit task force will be working on finding the best transit options for local communities," Thruway Authority Chairman Howard Milstein said.

Among those selected for the group are Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. The group's website has a ticker noting the number of days and months since the state promised to create the task force. On Friday afternoon, the ticker was still going at three months, 22 days and counting.

Tri-State is pushing for bus rapid transit, an approach that would speed bus traffic thorugh surrounding towns.

"The new bridge that is being built to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge is central to the long-term economic well-being of the entire region and mass transit will be a vital component for the bridge and the entire I-287 corridor," Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said.

Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef said any plan should consider the needs of Rockland residents with few mass-transit options.

"Rockland County has limited choice for commuters and new transit options are essential for the long-term vitality and livability of our communties," Vanderhoef said.

On Wednesday, a blue-ribbon panel handpicked by Cuomo chose the lowest bidder from among three construction consortiums vying to replace the existing bridge. The panel's choice came in with a bid of $3.1 billion, some $2 billion less than the estimated price tag for the dual-span bridge.

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