How many of my fellow Rocklanders remember what life was like in 1955? Most of us (or our parents) were driving Chevys or Fords that cost less than $2,000 and we were paying 23¢ per gallon for gas. It was in that climate that the character of Rockland County and the entire Hudson Valley was historically altered with the opening of the Tappan Zee Bridge. This bridge changed the face of Rockland, causing personal and property loss for some, affecting our mobility, our economy and our environment. It opened Rockland to the rest of the world, but the bridge was never designed to accommodate the current volume of vehicles that traverse it each and every day.
The future of a Hudson River crossing has been one of my top priorities for over a decade. Knowing that decisions by the state will have major impacts on Rockland’s quality of life, I fought to ensure that the process was transparent and included input from residents. Many meetings elicited citizens’ ideas— whether to tunnel, to rehabilitate, to build anew or not-to-build, to have commuter rail, light rail or bus rapid transit—so that maximum value would be derived from this huge river crossing investment. Governor Cuomo and President Obama recognize the national importance of this transportation link and have put it on an expedited infrastructure priority list. This has caused reactions from joy to despair for a variety of reasons.
Some of the significant challenges ahead are:
• Securing funding for bridge constructionand for highway improvements.
• Ensuring that the bridge design accommodates mass transit and sets an acceptable schedule for detailed examination of BRT in the I-287 corridor.
• Ensuring that the aesthetics of the bridge and entire span befits the majestic Hudson and the gateway to Rockland for the next century.
In the next few months crucial decisions will be made that will impact Rockland County for generations to come. I will continue to advocate for the safety of those who travel over the bridge, for the protection of the environment and economy, and for maximizing the ultimate value of the bridge investment.
Harriet Cornell is Chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature. She represents Legislative District 10 which encompasses the Villages of Nyack and Upper Nyack, Central Nyack and parts of West Nyack & New City.