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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Long Island Sound crossing idea spans decades

One of the best ideas of a U.S. senator from New York in the 1920s and 1930s is back in the news.

An artist's rendering of a proposed bridge from

An artist's rendering of a proposed bridge from Oyster Bay to Rye. Like many other transportation projects on Long Island, it never became a reality. Photo Credit: Newsday

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Does the name Royal S. Copeland ring a bell?

Political junkies might remember him as a U.S. senator from New York in the 1920s and 1930s (fun fact: his honorary campaign manager in 1922 was FDR).

One of his best ideas is back in the news.

Copeland appears to be the first person to pitch a cross-Long Island Sound link — in his case, an 18-mile bridge from Orient Point to either Groton, Connecticut, or Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Copeland, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, even got engineering surveys started. But then he died in 1938. And his plan died with him.

Copeland is part of a long bridge/tunnel history recounted in the State Department of Transportation study recently released on the feasibility of a Sound crossing. It shows that Copeland, a homeopathic physician by training, was only the first of many people to diagnose Long Island and offer the same prescription: The region needs another route out.

Charles H. Sells, the former state superintendent of public works, proposed two bridges, Orient Point to Watch Hill and Oyster Bay to Rye or Port Chester, in 1957.

A 1962 plan included a bridge from Orient Point to either New London, Connecticut, or Naptree Point, Rhode Island.

Master builder Robert Moses got in the act in 1966 with a $100 million-$150 million plan for an Oyster Bay-Port Chester bridge. Other bridge pitches followed.

The first tunnel plan, of course, came courtesy of late Garden City developer Vincent Polimeni in 2007, a dream now nurtured by his son, Michael. And, perhaps, by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who ordered up the DOT study that concluded, as Copeland did 80 years ago, that crossing the Sound is technically viable.

As for the politics ...

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