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Mayors Excited, Yet Share Concerns About Bridge's Shared Used Path

Courtesy of the NYS Thruway Authority
"Palisades" overlook rendering

Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled animation of a bicycle and pedestrian path on the Mario Cuomo Bridge. The shared use path is a work in progress. Mayors of the villages at each end of the Tappan Zee replacement say while they look forward to the path’s opening next year, they still have some concerns.

Cuomo says the 3.6-mile bicycle and pedestrian path will be one of the longest in the U.S. and will be the first dedicated crossing for such users spanning the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester Counties. Bonnie Christian is mayor of South Nyack on the Rockland County side. She says after controversy earlier on, years of partnership have yielded an agreeable plan.

“However, we have, we have concerns. And the Thruway and the state have been listening to our concerns, one being will the shared use path be open 24/7. The state will be patrolling it,” Christian says. “And we are a residential area, so one of our concerns is we’d like it open from dawn to dusk. I know the bikers want 24/7. Maybe somewhere in the middle we can compromise. I don’t know.”

On the Westchester side, Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell shares concern about the hours.

“Having it open at 2 o’clock in the morning just doesn’t seem to be a particularly great idea. It’s not like we’re, it’ not like the [New York] City, where the services are provided at the same level through the night, basically. So, from a security perspective, I don’t think it makes sense to go 24/7.”

He adds:

“What’ll be interesting and could be a plus, could be minuses is how much is it truly going to be used by people commuting, and bicycles, and if that will be, if there will be a significant number. There are some people, some bikers who have said, well, what if we bike to the, we bike across, we get on the train, we go to the city and then we come home late from work and it’s closed,” Fixell says. “Now, the, I believe the answer to that is that they have put bike racks on the new buses that are going to be traveling across the bridge. So I think that concern is pretty much alleviated, or should be alleviated. I’m sure the bikers won’t, they won’t feel that it’s satisfactory.”

The commuter buses will have bike racks. Meantime, a Thruway Authority spokesman says the state has not made any final decisions regarding hours and that it is working with the village mayors, bicyclists and others. South Nyack’s Christian has another concern.

“Parking is a concern for us because no one knows if 54 parking spaces that they are putting on Thruway property will be enough. And we do, we have an RFP out for a consultant on parking. We got a grant to look at parking,” says Christian. “We need help to see what streets in South Nyack where we would see the most parking, and I’m sure that would be around where the shared used path is, and where we could charge, where we could deter. It’s a combination of trying to deter parking but, also, if there will be parking, it’s a chance for our village to make some money off of it, too, or make a profit.”

Parking on both sides is on state land. In Westchester, the parking will be shared with the lot for the Thruway’s new maintenance facility. This, says the Thruway Authority spokesman, would yield more than 120 spots on weekends, counting use of the maintenance spots. And when not using the maintenance spots, there will be 30 spaces for the shared path users. On the Rockland side, there are about 55 spots on state land. In addition to parking lots, each landing point will feature bicycle repair stations, restrooms and other amenities. Tarrytown’s Fixell:

“I mean, it’s not in a residential area directly, but it’s some distance away, and there’s a fair amount of parking provided, especially on the weekends,” says Fixell. “But, if it’s exceedingly popular, it does, there is the potential for the parking to be used up and then there’d be spillover. And then the question is what happens with those cars when they come. Now, the state Authority they’ve sort of committed to dealing with it if that happens and finding solutions.”

Plus, he says:

“The other concerns are, again, if it’s very, very popular, if people crossing Route 9 start to create, sort of, traffic problems,” Fixell says.

The shared used path is slated for completion in 2019, with a 12-foot wide path on the northern side of the westbound span of the bridge. Separated from traffic by a concrete barrier and fencing, the path will also feature six scenic overlooks across the length of the 3.1-mile crossing. New York State Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Matthew Driscoll offered a first look at the animation earlier in October at the 2018 New York Bike Summit in Saratoga Springs.

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