No ecology obstacles for new Tappan Zee Bridge

January 25, 2012 3:11:03 PM PST
A new Tappan Zee Bridge would do no lasting harm to the water quality of the Hudson River and might even improve air quality in the area, a state analysis says.

However, nine homeowners in South Nyack, including two in a historic district, would lose their property, the study says. Some residents of Nyack would have their majestic river views obstructed.

New York's draft environmental impact statement was made public Tuesday, part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's speeded-up effort to get construction started this year on the new span. The governor's office said Tuesday the project is expected to create more than 23,000 jobs.

In October, President Barack Obama declared the bridge eligible for fast-tracked federal approvals. Though the project has been discussed for a decade, this is the first time it has gotten to the environmental impact statement stage.

"Now that we understand the environmental effects of reconstructing the bridge, it is time to start laying out real construction plans," said state Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald.

The new Tappan Zee would be two spans replacing an aging, overcrowded bridge across the Hudson between Westchester and Rockland counties in New York City's suburbs.

However, there is no plan to include mass transit on the bridge from the start, as had been discussed for years and as many local leaders have suggested. Mass transit could add billions to the projected $5.2 billion cost, but advocates say the bridge quickly will be obsolete without it. Present plans leave room for the possible later addition of mass transit.

Paul Gallay, president of the environmental group Riverkeeper, wondered why there was no study for a mass transit alternative.

"Have they just settled on this two-span bridge with no mass transit as the thing they must do?" he said.

Comments on the draft environmental impact will be accepted until March 15, and public hearings will be held in Westchester and Rockland Counties in late February. A final statement is expected by July and a federal decision finalizing it by August. Construction could then begin, if funding is in place.

The impact statement, assembled by transportation officials, finds that a new bridge would not by itself increase traffic, although it would have eight lanes rather than the current bridge's seven lanes.

Some proponents of immediate mass transit say that if the bridge is an improvement, it will draw more cars.

The draft says that because of plans for stormwater management, there will be no increase in Hudson River pollution from the bridge, once it's completed. During construction, however, dredging, pile-driving and demolition of the existing bridge could affect water quality.

It says air quality could improve because of less traffic congestion.

As for wildlife, the report says the project would have little effect on most creatures in the water, on the land or in the air.

"Any species currently inhabiting the area would continue to occur with the same likelihood," it says. It says oyster beds in the river could be permanently lost during construction but "restoration projects will be explored."

The endangered peregrine falcons now living on the bridge are expected to move to nest boxes on the new bridge, the report said.

Eminent domain would be used to buy the homes that would be in the new right of way in Rockland County, it said.

Environmental impact statement,

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