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Get Long Island tunnel plan to finish line

Long Island Sound tunnel proposal.

Long Island Sound tunnel proposal. Photo Credit: Newsday / Julia Gaines

What we dubbed the Cross Sound Link some nine years ago would take drivers beneath the Long Island Sound from Syosset to Westchester County, taking advantage of existing infrastructure was conceived as a triple bore, comprising two tunnels with three lanes of traffic in each direction. Light rail also was part of it.

We studied the underlying geology of the Sound and reviewed state-of-the-art boring technology. We looked closely at the entrances, realizing they needed to remain within New York State because Connecticut could land the project in the courts for generations.

We reviewed how construction debris would be trucked out during such a project, the benefits to regional air quality through the filtering of tons of auto emissions as vehicles transit the tunnel, how we needed to consider human behavior given that drivers would be in an unusually long tunnel, and of course, how to finance a multibillion-dollar project.

All of this, and more, is contained in a document that was presented to Andrew M. Cuomo when he was still attorney general during a briefing session in his Manhattan office in 2007. Which begs the question: How much shock and awe should we express over the governor’s recent infrastructure roadshow on Long Island and then again during his State of the State address?

His call for Long Island MacArthur Airport to become an international gateway requires at least 1,500 more feet of runway to accommodate major overseas flights. A deep-water port in Shoreham was an action item on his father’s gubernatorial watch. A Penn Station makeover is laudable, but a generation of commuters has retired since that concept was first introduced in the late 1990s. How do we get beyond this road show and actually appropriate the hard dollars needed to address all of our state’s obsolete infrastructure?

The issue isn’t whether there is engineering skill required to master these projects. It’s how to pay for them. For example, the third track so crucial to the future of the Long Island Rail Road and now championed by the governor does not have money appropriated for it in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s five-year capital plan. The State of the State address did not address it.

Without a firm commitment from Cuomo to expand public-private partnerships in mega-projects such as a tunnel across the Sound, these concepts are dead on arrival. Public-private partnerships provideinnovative ways to fund these efforts. We need to be as visionary as we can be in proposing this plan, and have the political will to follow through. Our company stands ready to participate.

Also, Cuomo offered his infrastructure comments with a postscript. He told the Long Island Association business group recently that it needs to persuade state lawmakers to support his proposals, knowing that Long Island can’t agree on where to put a stop sign. The lawsuit filed against a regional master plan introduced by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is a reminder of how reactionary the region is to strategic planning.

State of the State speeches are designed for soaring rhetoric, but Cuomo’s political pragmatism may allow him to propose billions in public works with the understanding that we are incapable of forging a consensus strong enough to take up his offer.

Michael Polimeni is chief executive of Polimeni International, which proposed the road and rail tunnel linking Long Island to Westchester, and is a member of the executive board of the Association for a Better Long Island.