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Cuomo announces next steps toward a Sound tunnel

The announcement does not mention a Suffolk-Connecticut link. A DOT spokesman says a tunnel to Westchester is “most feasible.”

The late developer Vince Polimeni proposed a $10-billion,

The late developer Vince Polimeni proposed a $10-billion, 16-mile tunnel from Oyster Bay Town to Rye 10 years ago. Photo Credit: Polimeni International

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is pushing forward with plans for a Long Island Sound tunnel despite strong opposition locally and in Albany.

On Friday he announced the next steps toward seeking proposals to develop a tunnel between the North Shore and Westchester County.

A Sound crossing has been debated on the Island since 1938 with multiple plans scuttled by fierce community opposition.

“Today, we are taking another step to advance an ambitious project that would reduce traffic on the impossibly congested Long Island Expressway, improve connectivity, and help ensure the region’s future economic competitiveness,” Cuomo said in a statement.

His announcement comes after the release this month of an 87-page study that estimated a Sound tunnel would cost between $31.5 billion and $55.4 billion to build, depending on location and whether there are one or two tubes.

The study’s authors estimated between 74,300 and 86,400 vehicles would use a tunnel to Westchester per day. Together, drivers would pay more than $500 million in tolls per year, if the fee were $20 to $25 per trip.

The study, conducted by the Montreal consulting firm WSP, concluded that a Sound crossing is only viable from Oyster Bay Town in Nassau County or Kings Park in Suffolk County.

The 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.

Friday’s announcement does not mention a potential link to Connecticut.

The state Department of Transportation is “asking interested parties to share their ideas on engineering, environmental, operations and financial considerations that will be used to inform the future development of a Request for Proposals,” department spokesman Joseph Morrissey said Friday.

It was unclear whether state officials have dismissed a Sound crossing to Connecticut and using a bridge.

“We believe the Long Island to Westchester option is most feasible based on our recent study but we are still in the early stages of the process,” Morrissey said.

Cuomo, in his State of the State speech this month, only mentioned a tunnel when he said a Sound crossing should be pursued.

Oyster Bay officials said Friday they remain opposed to a link with Westchester, regardless of whether it’s a tunnel or a bridge.

“New York State should not be wasting taxpayer money on studies in a location that is clearly inappropriate,” said Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino. “We will fight this proposal relentlessly as it would diminish property values and could impact the health, safety and well-being of our neighborhoods and environment.”

The earlier study was paid for with $5 million secured by Cuomo in the 2016-17 state budget.

Community opposition has 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 state’s top Republican is opposed to a Sound tunnel regardless of the destination.

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said, “I’m not going to support a tunnel . . . We have so many other things that we need to do” in terms of state spending on transportation, he told a Jan. 12 meeting of the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group.

The LIA has lobbied Albany to study both bridges and tunnels to either Westchester or Connecticut.

LIA President Kevin Law said Friday, “The state should continue gathering all the facts, all the costs and all the benefits of a tunnel or bridge and then we should have a public discussion on their findings.”

The DOT plans to do just that.

Acting DOT Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, “Now that our study is complete, we will conduct additional engineering, environmental and financial analysis on the project, while assessing impacts on local communities.”

Experts have until April 2 to respond to DOT’s invitation to help craft a request for proposals. The RFP would then go to potential developers of a tunnel.

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