A bridge, tunnel or combination of the two across Long Island Sound would cost as much as $55.4 billion to build, according to a study commissioned by New York State.
The report, the latest examination of a concept that was first proposed in 1938, concludes that a Sound crossing is only feasible from Oyster Bay Town or Kings Park.
The study by the Montreal consulting firm WSP was paid for with $5 million secured by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the 2016-17 state budget. Cuomo, like many of his predecessors, has endorsed a Sound crossing and last week touted the idea in his State of the State speech in Albany.
Still, the 87-page report acknowledged there is strong opposition in Oyster Bay and Westchester County to a crossing, with critics citing the high price tag, increased traffic congestion and damage to wetlands and other environmentally-sensitive areas. The report was provided by the state Department of Transportation at Newsday’s request.
Its authors examined nine proposals, finding that five merit further consideration by the state: a tunnel, or tunnel/bridge combination, between Oyster Bay and the Westchester communities of Rye and Port Chester; a bridge linking Kings Park to Bridgeport, Connecticut; and a bridge/tunnel combination between Kings Park and Bridgeport or Devon, Connecticut.
The authors dismissed proposals to link Wading River to either New Haven or Branford, Connecticut, saying they would not foster economic development and would be too expensive. They also dismissed the possibility of only bridges between Oyster Bay and Rye/Port Chester and between Kings Park and Devon.
“A new crossing should effectively promote new opportunities for economic growth in the region,” the authors said.
Though the study recommends further examination of bridges and bridge/tunnel combinations, Cuomo last week embraced only tunnels.
“We should continue to pursue a tunnel from Long Island to Westchester or Connecticut,” he said. “It would be under water, it would be invisible, it would reduce traffic on the impossibly congested Long Island Expressway, and would offer significant potential private investment.”
Cuomo has ordered the transportation department “to conduct additional engineering, environmental and financial analysis that is necessary to determine the best path forward for this transformative project,” department spokesman Joseph Morrissey said Monday.
Opponents of a Sound crossing were unmoved by the report, saying a tunnel from Oyster Bay to Westchester would involve the demolition of hundreds of houses, bring increased traffic congestion and potentially harm the environment.
“I don’t see the need for it; you’re only shaving 15 to 20 minutes off a trip,” said State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), a member of the powerful Senate transportation committee.
“This would be a massive undertaking that would be expensive and disruptive. No one wants it on either side of Long Island Sound,” he said, referring to Oyster Bay and Westchester.
Joseph Saladino, Oyster Bay Town supervisor, agreed, saying construction of a tunnel or bridge from the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway to Westchester would damage federally-protected wetlands and require the expensive acquisition of private land.
He said the only viable option for a Sound crossing is further east, in Kings Park.
Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim, a Kings Park resident, disagreed, saying, “my constituents will have a massive problem with this.”
Community opposition twice helped to scuttle an Oyster Bay-Rye bridge, proposed in 1965 by the state’s then-master builder Robert Moses, and reintroduced in 1972. More recently, a Syosset-Rye tunnel, proposed by the late developer Vincent Polimeni, failed because it lacked state support, though then-Gov. David A. Paterson was in favor.
The new study estimates more than 86,000 vehicles would use an Oyster Bay or Kings Park crossing per day. Together, drivers would pay about $500 million in tolls per year, if the fee were $20 or $25 per trip.
The study was expanded to include bridges as well as tunnels in 2016 at the behest of the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group.
LIA CEO Kevin Law said the study was a good first step.
“Rather than dismissing talks of a bridge or tunnel for reasons related to location or costs, a public presentation and discussion” of the study “should be held and perhaps we can build the kind of regional support for this project” as was done recently for a third track on the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville, he said. “Once the feasibility and support are shown, we can then encourage the federal government to pay for part of it.”
The Long Island Contractors’ Association endorsed a tunnel crossing, with its executive director Marc Herbst saying traffic congestion costs each commuter $1,739 per year in lost productivity. He added, “The sound crossing will . . . make Long Island far more competitive.”