Monday, October 26, 2015

MTA Money Siphoning Over-Looked

From the Daily News:

Drivers in New York and New Jersey pay the heftiest price for their commutes — accounting for almost one-third of all tolls collected across the U.S., a new report says.

The report, which was released by the International Bridges, Tunnels and Turnpike Association, indicated that drivers in the two states forked over an astounding $4 billion of the $13 billion in tolls accrued across the country.

“The primary reason (for New York and New Jersey drivers paying the highest tolls) would be the concentration in the region of bridges and tunnels connecting the greater New York metro area,” said Neil Gray, director of government affairs at IBTTA.

“The facilities have been in place for a long time, they were very expensive to build, they are expensive to maintain and they are tremendously expensive to replace.”

Gray added that the greater New York metro area has a very high concentration of commuters, which is likely to account for the costliness.

The report:

Some comments received:

Camel bladder said... 
At least 2/3 of the bridge and tunnel tolls we pay go to direct subsidies for the MTA buses and subways. I find it amazing that these pointy headed scumbags that produced this report could leave out key information like this. This uncontrolled subsidy to the MTA is endless. There are taxes everywhere that we all pay to cover the bloated MTA. Just look at your telephone bill, there is a downstate MTA tax in every phone bill. Not to mention how much of our federal tax dollars get dumped into the MTA shithole.
Disgusted Diva said... 
The MTA is corrupt and bloated. It should be investigated and reorganized. Its officials have no apparent accountability at present. The MTA members should be term limited and publicly vetted, and its books should be accessible. Our federal representatives should be more proactive in getting funding for our capital needs and projects, including funding the MTA.
Time to pay back the Westway funds!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jesuitical Psuedo Environmentalism - 'Fighting Westway' William Buzbee Georgetown University Law Center

to stop a tunneled highway that would have had portal pollution hot spots highlighting the need for cleaner automobile technoligies

I was one of the lawyers who represented the New York State DOT in this case. Mr. Buzbee reached out to our team a grand total of once while researching and writing this tome. His bias in favor of the plaintiffs is obvious, as is his lack of understanding of all of the issues. In short, the book is neither honest nor accurate, and I reject it as the sort of drivel that only encourages pseudo-environmentalists to litigate in order to block progress. - Bruce Margolius

totally misrepresents the cost issues regarding the relative complexities of the Boston CAT project and Westway.

brushes aside considerations of engineering

feeds the myth of highways vs transit rather than transportation infrastructure versus things as the ruinous and wasteful drug war.

In his new book Fighting Westway: Environmental Law, Citizen Activism and the Regulatory War that Transformed New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), Georgetown University Law Center Professor William W. Buzbee provides a history of one of environmental law’s most epic and renowned battles.

Buzbee uses archival documents and interviews with stakeholders to dissect the legal, environmental and political battles over Westway, the most expensive federally financed highway of its day and a project that would have involved massive landfilling in the Hudson River. It was a struggle that lasted 14 years, involving direct citizen protests and activism, Congress, presidents, agencies and several court trials. It pitted senators, mayors and the editorial boards of the New York Times and Daily News against scientists, federal agency staff and citizen activists and their lawyers. Buzbee uses the Westway battles to illuminate the strategies and elements of high stakes regulatory wars. Although many books have been written about the law, few illuminate the strategies and choices at play in common but complex high stakes regulatory conflicts that often involve society’s most fundamental political choices.

“Westway’s defeat remains shocking to its champions, especially considering the power of its supporters,” Buzbee writes. Although Westway’s defeat has often been described as an anti-democratic outcome over a mere procedural snafu, or lacking merit under the law, Buzbee reveals that Westway’s battles were over high stakes. The project’s defeat was not due to “some antidemocratic fluke,” he says, but to an effective combination of citizen activism, a highway versus mass transit choice, scientific input by expert regulators, environmentally protective choices in the law and judicial impartiality. While Buzbee surveys the entire history of the project, he focuses most of his attention on the legal and regulatory battles at its endgame, from 1982 to 1985.

“The dramatic story of the battle over Westway serves as a masterful case study of how today’s regulatory wars are waged across the United States,” says Richard Briffault, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia University Law School.

And John H. Adams, founding director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says: “Finally! The first thorough, truthful account of one of the great environmental battles of the twentieth century!”

Oh really?

The book spouts anti Westway ideas - doing so with full acceptance and utterly uncricticaly.


cites Lower Manhattan Expressway as precedent, yet disegards major differences between projects namely Westway's absence of the problems that politically plauged LOMAX.

- the former would have displaced numerous buildings
- would have been largely elevated or an open trench

Westway would have displaced non, asides from some piers that would be demolished anyway
Westway was primarily in a tunnel encasing noise and pollution


cites Westway opponents scoffing at Westway benefits regarding development

- ignored reality of greater property values when major road corridor is buried ig 96th street where the rr goes underground

- ignored the extra development of the landfill new development

- ignored added neighborhoods and property taxes- perpetual benefits

- ignored reconnecting Manhattan to waterfront via placing main stream of vehicular traffic in tunnel.

- ignored reality that Westway would replace existing freeway link with antiquated design connecting existing freeway segments


- ignored context of historically expanding landfill and that the concentration owed to a sewer outlet

- thus Westway would merely pushed fish a few hundred feet

- ignored efforts elsewhere to mitigate via providing alternative hatcheries in area.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Case FOR Below Ground Level Urban Freeways

by Sandy Smith, for a cut and cover Roosevelt Boulevard Expressway

A Case For An Urban Expressway

October 19, 2012 |  by  |  Soapbox  |  , , , , , ,

Seoul before and after the removal of a central highway and the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon River | Image: Seoul Metropolitan Government
[DW note- this was a wasted opportunity: 
it should have included a box tunnel freeway tunnel beneath]

The movement to eliminate urban freeways has been gathering steam and a number of high-profile supporters, and understandably so. It’s been demonstrated on numerous occasions that freeways and cities don’t play well together, or at least not as well as either freeway advocates or the municipal officials who welcomed their arrival in the 1950s anticipated. Next American City has showcased several examples where removing urban freeways has stimulated the revitalization of urban areas in places like San Francisco and Portland, and earlier this year it sponsored a forum, “Reimagining Urban Highways,” at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in which a host of urban officials discussed the positive forces unleashed when urban freeways were removed.

There’s a powerful case to be made for this argument. Urban freeways disfigure large swaths of land, and high-speed car access to urban centers undercuts the ability of mass transit–a more density-friendly form of transportation–to serve them effectively. Society Hill residents fought furiously to have Interstate 95 buried through Center City in the 1960s, correctly seeing the proposed elevated highway as cutting the city off from its waterfront. More recently, Diana Lind, the editor of Next American City, spearheaded a dialogue about the complete removal of I-95 through forums like the one in February.

But just as enthusiasm for urban freeways was overdone, so may be enthusiasm for their removal. Unless we eliminate cars entirely–an unlikely proposition–there will need to be provisions to handle them, sometimes in large numbers, in our cities.

While I agree with Jane Jacobs that we should pursue “the attrition of cars by cities,” “attrition” falls well short of elimination. And furthermore, there are places where adding rather than removing a freeway makes an urban environment more pedestrian-friendly. To understand why, let’s go back to the future and up to the part of town I now call home.

Vine Street, looking east from 15th Street, 1951. From the Philadelphia City Archives via

The photo above shows Vine Street after it was widened to 10 lanes east of 15th Street in 1951. While the road is relatively free of traffic in this picture, it would not remain so for long: by the 1970s, it hummed with traffic most of the day, and crossing it on foot was at best an unpleasant experience.
Fast-forward to today, after Vine Street’s center lanes were buried in a trench that extended the Vine Street Expressway across Center City. Those buried lanes took most of the traffic with them, and now, pedestrians can cross Vine Street with relative ease and safety at all but the worst congested periods.

As with Vine Street, so with Roosevelt Boulevard, the central artery of Northeast Philadelphia. A 1950s reconstruction project reconfigured that street as well, turning it into a 12-lane, double-divided boulevard much like Vine Street downtown. The improvements also turned it into a near-expressway, and drivers have treated it as such ever since, to the detriment of anyone who tries to cross it.
The recent installation of pedestrian crosswalk signals at several points along the street indicates that the city understands the hazards of crossing the Boulevard. But the real path to eliminating the hazard lies in doing to the Boulevard what the state did with Vine Street in the 1990s.

Roosevelt Boulevard at Oxford Circle: Six fewer lanes for pedestrians to cross means improved pedestrian safety and friendliness. Photo: Sandy Smith.

Pedestrians can cross Oxford Circle without fear, for instance, because the inner lanes dip beneath it. Putting those lanes in a trench that runs the length of the street would not only make the existing pedestrian crossings safer, it would open up the possibility of even more places to cross, especially if the submerged inner lanes are covered with a cap. That cap, in turn, could either be landscaped, restoring the Boulevard to something like its original appearance, or–thanks again to the street’s width–it could support mid-rise, mixed-use development that could truly transform the Boulevard into a real Main Street for Northeast Philadelphia.

And as a bonus, that trench could also accommodate the one mass transit project just about everyone agrees needs to be built, a subway for the Northeast. Forget light rail: there is enough demand for transit in the Northeast to justify true rapid transit instead of a half-measure, and a recent cell phone poll conducted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission demonstrated that if we built it, people would ride.

A Northeast Philadelphia extension of the Broad Street Line remains a key component of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Long-Range Vision for Transit, and the City Planning Commission’s poll helped shape the final form of the recently adopted Lower Northeast District Plan, where the poll results can be found. (Some argue that rapid transit lines in freeway medians still give the car pride of place and an advantage over transit. I suspect a driver stuck in rush-hour traffic on Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway while Chicago Transit Authority ‘L’ trains zip by would beg to differ.)

Of course, all this would cost serious money, and cost is what derailed the city’s last serious effort to make this vision a reality in 2003. But the benefits would be well worth the expenditure. All we need to do is put our reflexive antipathy to urban freeways aside. Vine Street showed that such roads can improve the urban environment for all if built right. In the Northeast, we have another chance to do that.

Sandy Smith has been engaging in journalism and its hired-gun cousin, public relations, in Philadelphia for nearly 30 years. He started award-winning newspapers at the University of Pennsylvania as part of a team and at Widener University all by himself. He has a passionate interest in cities and urban development, which he gets to indulge as editor-in-chief of the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog, and in trains and mass transit, which he indulges wherever and whenever he gets the chance. (You may know him as "MarketStEl" if you lurk on Philadelphia Speaks.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Donald Trump Bridge Disconnect

China's bridges: "China, you go there now, roads, bridges, schools, you never saw anything like it. They have bridges that make the George Washington Bridge look like small potatoes." -

Yet what has Donald Trump ever said about bridges, in say the metropolitan area of his native New York?   Surely would not such a candidate complain or comment about NY not getting a single new crossing since the completion of the Verrazano Narrow Bridge?

In a radio interview, Trump said he’s convinced the cost of the massive bridge will balloon to $10 billion, a cost he said the state can’t afford. The current projected cost for the new bridge is as much as $4.8 billion, which includes both construction and financing costs.
The state Thruway Authority, which owns the bridge, closed on a $1.6 billion loan from the federal government for the bridge replacement project last week. The better option, Trump said, is reinforcing the current span, which stretches across the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties.

“The bridge is a totally fine structure, but it needs renewal,” Trump told host Fred Dicker on Albany’s WGDJ-AM. “And the renewal can be done for a tiny fraction of the — in my opinion — $10 billion bridge that they’re going to build.”

Trump offered no basis for his $10 billion estimate, aside from detailing his expertise in real-estate development.

The Thruway Authority’s contract for the new bridge pushes much of the cost of potential overruns on the team of contractors building the span, though taxpayers are still on the hook in certain instances, such as if builders encounter hazardous materials or the state decides to add features to the bridge.

Why no mention from Trump about where have all of those toll monies gone?  Such as the toll collected on the Tappan Zee Bridge since it first opened in 1955 or so?

LOL, the bridge can’t handle the traffic it was not designed for 125 to 150,000 cars a day. The bridge was designed for 50,000 cars a day and is of a design that requires a lot of maintenance, which has not been done. However the bridge was made during a steel shortage and is not constructed of a gauge of other NYC bridges, it was designed with a life span of 50 years. It is made of small box steel girder and truss transfer beams. Take a look at in contract to the steel on other NY area bridges. It needs to go and soon. Trump has likely only flown over it recently, no sweat off his back.

Conscience of a Conservative on
Trump is very wrong here, but I suspect he doesn’t care and just wants his daily publicity. The Tappan Zee bridge is in dire need of upgrade as it’s the life-blood for those crossing the Hudson. The State did err, but on the side of not including a light rail option.

In judging the fiscal soundness of the project the State should be thinking about the increased productivity of residents on both sides of the Hudson, along with increased tax revenue by making Rockland more desirable

Actually the State did more than err in not including the light rail, or rather the provisions for such, but more broadly the provisions for rail in general.  After all the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement was long projected to include a heavy rail component of a new Metro North passenger rail line from Suffern to Rye/Port Chester, later truncated to White Plains and than to Tarrytown.

Such was projected to be carried by a lower deck- a feature included in the George Washington and Verrazano Narrows Bridges.  Yet one in-explicitly dropped, even as the EIS left that option out of its cost benefits analysts a logical basis for a law suit that was never brought about.

What happened to all of the liberal-left "progressive" support for expanding rail transit?

Come to think why do we hear so much about Trump, yet so comparatively little about other NY area developers that HAVE proposed new crossings, such as that who proposed the Cross Sound Tunnel?