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Cross-Sound tunnel may be only 15 years away

A rendering of the proposed tunnel that would

A rendering of the proposed tunnel that would run under the Long Island Sound. Photo Credit: Rendering

The problem: Bad traffic; too many trucks; lack of options to get off Long Island.

The fix: A 17-mile tunnel under Long Island Sound, from Oyster Bay to Rye.

Imagine a world where, for $25 each way, you could get off Long Island quickly and easily. That world may be only 15 years away.

Long Island's most ambitious and polarizing transportation proposal may be the Cross Sound Link, which promises to connect Nassau County to Westchester via the longest road tunnel in the world. If approved, the 17-mile tunnel could be completed by 2025, according to its planners, Garden City-based Polimeni International Llc.

But, they acknowledge, that's a pretty big "if."

"There really isn't an obstacle that exists that we won't have to go through," said Michael Polimeni, who listed digging beneath some Syosset homes as among the challenges. "It's NUMBYism - 'Not under my backyard.' "

The $13-billion project, proposed three years ago, is at a standstill as developers wait for state approval to conduct a traffic study.

The plan calls for three tunnels to be dug 150 feet below Long Island Sound, connecting the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (Route 135) in Syosset with the intersection of Interstates 287 and 95 in Rye.

Two of the tunnels would carry three lanes each of traffic. The center tunnel could be built to accommodate trains - potentially creating a link between the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.

For a cost of $25 each way, Polimeni said, drivers could cut a 45-mile trip by nearly two-thirds and avoid the frequently congested Throgs Neck, Bronx-Whitestone or Robert F. Kennedy bridges.

The tunnel would take an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 cars and trucks off Long Island roadways each day, and save 24 million gallons of fuel each year, according to planners.

Polimeni said innovations in tunnel-boring technology would allow the passageways to be mined with minimal disruption to neighboring communities. Designers have used major tunnels constructed in the last decade, including Norway's 15-mile Laerdal tunnel, as inspiration for their plan.

The project's potential benefits have won over several transportation advocates and environmentalists who believe the project will have no significant impact on the Sound.

"He's right-on with the vision," said Michael White, director of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, who says that a new link on and off Long Island - if not two of them - is essential to the Island's sustainability. "And what the government should do is foster that vision."

A connection between Nassau and Westchester counties has been proposed and debated in various forms for decades, dating back to a state plan proposed in the 1960s for a bridge between Bayville and Rye.

State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) said he has yet to hear much opposition from constituents to the Polimeni organization's latest incarnation of the notion - in part, because few of them believe it could ever happen.

"I don't think people ever took it all that seriously," Marcellino said. "But it's something you have to . . . take seriously. Because the people who want to build it are serious."

Status: Stalled, as developers await OK to do traffic study.

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