03.29.16

SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO GREEN-LIGHT NEW & REDESIGNED TZ BRIDGE DESIGNED PEDESTRIAN-ACCESS PLAN; SENATOR SAYS NEW CONSTRUCTION PLAN, UNLIKE OLD ONE, HAS FULL SUPPORT OF LOCALS & NYS, BUT FED REVIEW IS NEEDED TO MOVE IT FORWARD; QUICK ACTION WILL AVOID DELAYS TO VITAL ACCESS PROJECT, WHICH WILL IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR SOUTH NYACK

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Is Serving As Federal Lead Agency and Needs to Approve New Shared-Use Path Plan; Schumer Urges Feds To Back Plan That Is Widely Supported In South Nyack

Schumer Says The Shared-Use Path Parking Facilities and Bicycle/Pedestrian Connections for Nyack and Tarrytown Needs Final Fed Approval To Move Forward; Urges Feds to Immediately Approve The Plan to Maintain Construction Timeline

Schumer To Feds: Immediately Green Light Local Plan To Maintain Project Timeline  

Standing at Gesner Avenue Waterfront Park in South Nyack, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his push to urge the Federal Highway Admiration (FHWA) to quickly green-light the updated Tappan Zee Bridge pedestrian access plan. Schumer said now that the local community strongly supports the new proposal, the FHWA must sign off and quickly grant project a waiver to avoid lengthy reviews and potential delays that could increase costs and stall construction. The redesigned plan was done in close partnership with the residents and local leaders of South Nyack, and will improve the quality of life for Rockland residents while offering state of the art recreational, walking and biking trails. New York State put considerable resources into redesigning the plans to ensure local communities reap the benefits of the new bridge and FHWA should approve the well thought out design.

“After going back to the drawing board and working together, New York State and the community of South Nyack have emerged with a plan for the Tappan Zee Bridge’s shared-use path that would not only provide the best facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists, but also protect the village’s local roads from swells of traffic and congestion. This is a win for Rockland County communities’ local roads and infrastructure, and a win for the entire regional economy that will benefit from the new bridge and shared-use path. That is exactly why we need the federal government to give its sign-off as soon as possible,” said Schumer. “Plain and simple, more delays and additional, lengthy reviews of this proposal – which is already less intrusive environmentally, and widely supported by the local residents and businesses – could be significantly detrimental to efforts to advance the shared-use path project.”

The Tappan Zee Bridge spans from Rockland County to Westchester County, connecting residents and commuters from the west side of the Hudson River to the east side every day. But after decades of wear and tear on a bridge that was never meant to carry the 138,000 people who traverse it every day, it became clear a new Tappan Zee Bridge would be needed. In 2013, construction on the new Tappan Zee Bridge began, and it is set to be completed in 2018. As a part of the ongoing bridge construction, there are still several project components that are still being decided on. One of those components is the new shared-use path, which will include parking facilities as well as bicycle and pedestrian connections from the bridge’s Rockland entrance point in Nyack to its Westchester access point in Tarrytown.

Earlier this year, as part of an effort to create a plan that was supported by the local community, the NYS Thruway Authority came back devised a new plan for the shared-use path that would close the South Broadway Thruway on-ramp and instead allow drivers to get on the highway near Hillside Avenue. As a part of its Environmental Assessment process, the NYSDOT worked in conjunction with the FHWA to conduct a number of public meetings in order to look at the various alternatives - including this new Alternative F - for the terminus of the shared-use path.‎ According to a recent Journal News report, at these meeting an overwhelming consensus has been that one option in particular – Alternative F – provides both the best facilities for users of the shared-use path while also protecting the community of South Nyack. 

Many community members voiced their support for Alternative F at the public input meetings because the new option would keep traffic off local roads and be less intrusive than the 1955 Tappan Zee Bridge construction while offering the necessary amenities and facilities to support the hundreds of visitors who will be eager to visit and enjoy the recreational offerings of the new bridge. Schumer said Alternative F would provide off-street parking accommodations, connections to parking areas from the shared-use path, access from existing bicycle and pedestrian routes to the shared-use path and limited ancillary facilities. In addition, this alternative provides all of these benefits in a way that minimizes community and environmental impacts and does so in a far more successful way than other alternatives that were considered. 

However, in order to move forward with the new alternative F an amendment to the original design plans for the bridge is needed. Approval of this change will allow the Thruway Authority to advance Alternative F. As a result, Schumer is urging the FHWA to approve this option, as it has received community support and needs federal sign-off to advance.

Furthermore, Schumer said the FHWA – which is the lead federal agency on this project – must issue a “Finding of No Significant Impacts” (FONSI) on the Tappan Zee’s Shared-Use Path Parking Facilities and Bicycle/Pedestrian Connections project. Schumer explained that issuing this FONSI would waive parts of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process that would require this project do an entirely new environmental review of this recently amended project alternative. Schumer said that because the Alternative F proposal is considered a “new” project element, as it was not considered as part of the environmental review conducted in 2012, it is required to undergo a lengthy review. However, Schumer said that because the project elements for the shared-use path and parking facilities are much less intrusive than the ones proposed four years ago, issuing a FONSI that would waive the NEPA process for Alternative F would be appropriate. Ultimately, Schumer said issuing this federal approval for Alternative F would help ensure the project can move forward, saving both time and money for the overall project.

Schumer was joined by South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian and village officials.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the FHWA appears below:

Dear Administrator Nadeau,

I write today in regards to the proposed Shared-Use Path Parking Facilities and Bicycle/Pedestrian Connections as part of the Tappan Zee Bridge project. As part of the Environmental Assessment process for the project the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) have conducted a number of public meetings where various alternatives for the terminus of the shared use path have been discussed. The overwhelming consensus at these meetings has been that Alternative F provides both the best facilities for users of the shared-use path, while also protecting the community of South Nyack. In light of the overwhelming local support, I urge you to not only approve alternative F, but also to issue the Shared-Use Path Parking Facilities and Bicycle/Pedestrian Connections project a Finding of No Significant Impacts (FONSI). By issuing a FONSI to this aspect of the project work can move forward immediately, saving both time and money for the overall project. Delays and lengthy reviews of this proposal, which is widely supported by the community, could be significantly detrimental to efforts to advance the shared-use path project.

South Nyack has had a long history with the Tappan Zee Bridge, and construction of the original bridge in 1955 had a number of negative impacts on the local community. Now, as significant progress is being made on a new Tappan Zee Bridge, it’s important that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. By approving Alternative F, and expediting all necessarily permits including issuing a FONSI, the FHWA can help play a role in shaping a far more positive legacy for the new Tappan Zee Bridge and South Nyack.  Alternative F would provide off-street parking accommodations, connection(s) to parking from the shared-use path, access from existing bicycle and pedestrian routes to the shared-use path, and limited ancillary facilities. In addition, this alternative provides all of these benefits in a way that minimizes community and environmental impacts and does so in a far more successful way than other alternatives that were considered.

Because the Alternative F proposal is considered a new project element as part of the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project (TZHRCP), and it was not considered as part of the environmental review that was conducted in 2012, the proposed action is subject to both NEPA and SEQRA requirements. As you know, while important, those requirements can often be burdensome, time consuming, and costly. In this case, because the Record of Decision that was issued in September of 2012, contained project elements for the shared-use path parking facilities that were more intrusive than the new proposed Alternative F, issuing a FONSI that would waive the full NEPA process for this new project element is appropriate and warranted. South Nyack deserves a plan for the shared-use path parking facilities that is supported by the community, therefore I urge you to do everything you can to quickly advance Alternative F.

I appreciate your attention to this issue, should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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