President Ellen Jaffe and Board Member Carol Waaser recently attended a presentation in Tarrytown of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project (i.e., the new Tappan Zee Bridge). Project coordinators are required to do an Environmental Impact Statement and seek public comment. After the presentation and after careful study of the technical drawings on which the DEIS was based, we submitted the following written comments, which were also endorsed by CRCA. [To look at the drawings, click here and scroll down to Appendices. Click on Appendix A-2, then go to page 8 for the Rockland access path and page 25 for the Tarrytown access path. You can enlarge the drawings using the PDF +/- tools at the bottom of each page and use the scroll bars to focus on the part you want to see.]
TAPPAN ZEE HUDSON RIVER CROSSING PROJECT
DEIS Comments March 2012
We are commenting on behalf of the New York Cycle Club, representing over 2,200 recreational cyclists in the greater New York area.
We are pleased to see that both current bridge designs continue to include a bicycle/pedestrian path as an integral part of the design. We believe such a path will see high usage, both from local cyclists and from tourists. We also believe that it could become an important link for alternative transportation for commuters, primarily people from the Nyack/Piermont area cycling to Tarrytown to take Metro North into the City.
However, we have serious concerns for cyclist and pedestrian safety. Our concerns focus primarily on the details of the access ramps on either side of the new bridge and on the impact that construction may have on cyclists on two important cycling thruways.
Specifically with regard to the access ramp on the Westchester side:
- Does the design take into account the impact on traffic and on pedestrian/cyclist safety? The current design drawings indicate that the shared use path access ramp junctions with Route 9 on the southbound side of Rte. 9 but to the north of where cars will bear right onto the westbound lanes of the bridge. Careful study must be made of traffic flow patterns and traffic control signals to ensure there is ample time within the signal pattern for cyclists and pedestrians to cross Rte. 9 or, in the case of cyclists, to turn right on Rte.9 (southbound) with time to get past the vehicle right-turn lane before motor vehicles are signaled to proceed in that lane. We note that there currently is no traffic signal at this juncture; the next signal is shortly south of this, where traffic enters Rte. 9 from the Stop-‘N-Shop on the east side of the street and traffic turning onto Rte. 119 bears right into the turn-out. Then there is another signal just further south, where cars in the turn-out cross Rte. 9 to go east on Rte. 119. This entire stretch of Rte. 9, with traffic and bicycles entering and exiting at four different points within two tenths of a mile, needs to be rethought in terms of control signals. Northbound cyclists on Rte. 9 wanting to turn left onto the bridge access ramp must also be considered. The signal for cyclists and pedestrians to cross Rte. 9 either to exit or to enter the ramp must be sufficiently long to allow a line of at least 12 cyclists to cross at slow speed.
- Is there a holding area at the bottom of the ramp? There appears to be no area at the bottom of the access ramp where cyclists coming down can stop to wait for traffic (or a green signal) without potentially blocking the bottom of the ramp. Such a waiting area would be extremely beneficial for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. If cyclists bunch up at the bottom, they will block the ramp entrance. If cyclists stop in a line that goes up the ramp, it will cause other problems as people get backed up on the ramp, especially given the current ramp design with its square turns to get around the cell tower (see next bullet point).
- Is there room for the design of the access ramp to circumnavigate the cell tower in a more gradual curve, rather than a ¾ box turn? The current design drawings indicate that, near the base of the shared use path access ramp, there is a cell tower that stands in the way of a straight line up to the bridge. The current design forces pedestrians and cyclists to make four 90 degree turns (left, right, right, left if going up the ramp) to get around the cell tower. These are likely to be at least partially, if not fully, blind corners, creating a very hazardous situation. A safer solution would be to create a gradual curve in the access ramp from the junction with Rte. 9 either to the current junction of the ramp with the bridge or at least to a point beyond the cell tower. Taking the curve all the way to the bridge juncture would be the safest as it would give the clearest line of vision to both cyclists and pedestrians.
- What would the logical connector routes be for cyclists? Currently the design drawings indicate that the shared use path simply ends at Rte. 9. We understand that the scope of the project was narrowed in October 2011 to include only the 4 miles of the actual bridge and its access ramps. However, this leaves a serious gap between where cyclists enter/exit the bridge and the frequently used cycling routes on the Westchester side of the bridge. While the project scope seems to have accounted for motor vehicle flow into the existing New York State Thruway and onto local streets, no thought seems to have been given to how cyclists will connect to the bridge. The access ramp simply begins/ends sharply at Rte. 9 in a manner that would put cyclists, both entering and exiting, into conflict with motor vehicle traffic. There is no accommodation for cyclists traveling north on Rte. 9 to enter the path. Even cyclists traveling south on Rte. 9 will be in conflict with motor vehicles preparing to bear right onto their access ramp. Route 9, itself, is not an ideal cycling route due to lack of shoulders and high traffic volume. Many cyclists now use the South and North County (aka Putnam) Rail Trail to access areas in Westchester County. Currently there is no safe direct connection between the trail and the bridge. The logical remedy would be to create a 2-way bicycle lane on Rte. 119 and have it flow into the shared use path access ramp for the bridge.
We believe it is important to consider these small but vital design changes now so that new designs can be subjected to environmental impact review. We cannot afford to be locked into the current access ramp design on the Westchester side of the bridge. It creates numerous safety hazards to both cyclists and pedestrians.
Specifically with regard to the access ramp on the Rockland side:
- How far does the shared use path extend on South Broadway? The current drawings indicate the limit of construction to be at the junction of South Broadway and Cornelison St. but it’s not clear that the shared-use path extends even that far. There is an access point to the Raymond G. Esposito Trail approximately 300 feet up South Broadway past Cornelison (across from Mansfield Ave.). Can a 2-way bicycle lane extend at least to that point? Also, many road cyclists will access the bridge from Piermont Avenue (River Rd.) by going up Cornelison. It would be advantageous to have a 2-way bicycle lane on the south side of Cornelison flowing directly into the shared use access ramp running along the south side of S. Broadway.
- What will the traffic control be at the junction of the shared use path with S. Broadway? Currently at the intersection of S. Broadway and Cornelison there is also an entrance ramp to the Thruway on the north side of S. Broadway across from the terminus of Cornelison. There is a single blinking traffic signal at this intersection. While it is unlikely that many cyclists will turn south on S. Broadway from the access ramp, some inevitably will. And cyclists coming south from Nyack (or from the Esposito Trail) will need to cross S. Broadway to access the ramp. Traffic flow and traffic control signals will need to be designed to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.
- Is there space at or near the terminus of the shared use path for cyclists to gather? As with the Westchester path terminus, there needs to be space for a group of cyclists to gather and regroup either before entering the path or after exiting. Otherwise there will be a hazardous traffic jam at the terminus of the path.
Specifically with regard to construction impact on transportation:
- To what extent will Piermont Avenue (aka River Road) in Rockland be impacted by construction? River Road from Piermont through Grandview into Nyack is an important cycling route. Will this road be closed during construction? Will a detour be available that is safe for cyclists? Currently, Rte. 9W between Piermont and Nyack is not considered safe for cyclists. The Old Erie Path from Piermont to Nyack is an unimproved dirt/grass path and not suitable for road bicycles. It is difficult to imagine that Piermont Avenue will be fully closed to vehicular traffic, given the apartment complexes in the immediate area. When accommodation is made for vehicular traffic, please make sure that cyclists are also accommodated. While it may seem minimal, there would be a definite negative financial impact on restaurants in Nyack during any period in which cyclists could not travel between Piermont and Nyack.
- To what extent will Route 9 in Westchester be impacted by construction? Although Rte. 9 is not an ideal cycling route because of lack of shoulders and high traffic volume, it is nonetheless used as a cycling thru-route between Tarrytown and points south. When designing detours for motor vehicles, the safety of cyclists must be considered.
- Will there be redundancy for the shared use path built into the bridge? It’s been noted that a requirement of the bridge design is that there be redundancy so that in case of span closure for repairs, traffic can be routed onto the other span. Will the same be true of the shared use path?
- Will the shared use path have sufficient lighting for safe use at night? As part of the EIS, we assume light pollution from the bridge was studied. We hope this included sufficient light for the shared use path to be used safely after dark.
- Will there be scenic viewing areas built out from the path? Inevitably many pedestrians and cyclists will wish to stop at points along the bridge to look up the river. Indeed, the major reason given for putting the shared use path on the north side of the bridge is to provide the most scenic view. However, if people stop and gather anywhere along the path, that will block thru traffic on the path and potentially cause accidents. We hope the final design will include two or three platforms cantilevered off the path for people to move onto for scenic viewing and photo ops.
Thank you for considering the needs of cyclists in this important transportation project.
Ellen Jaffe Carol Waaser
President Board Member
New York Cycle Club www.nycc.org