Monday, March 7, 2011

Tunnel Plan Still Submerged

– By Peter Jovanovich –

With much fanfare late last year, the Long Island commercial developer Polimeni LLC. floated the idea of building a tunnel from Long Island to Westchester, terminating in Rye. To date, the plan has caused barely a ripple in Albany or on Wall Street.

“We’re shopping the project around,” says Michael Polimeni, the point person for the proposed 16-mile tollway under the Sound. He acknowledges, however, the so-called “Cross Sound Link Tunnel” has received no response from any of the executive departments in Albany, such as the Department of Transportation or the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Realistically,” says Polimeni, “this project only gets off the ground with top-level support from Governor Spitzer.” When contacted last week by the paper, a press spokesman from the Governor’s Office offered “no comment” on the tunnel proposal, saying that this appeared to be a private matter.

As for Wall Street, where the investors in the project would need to raise at least $9-10 billion, Polimeni said that Bear Stearns was “quite comfortable about raising the money once there was regulatory approval.”

What are the prospects of getting approval to dig a tunnel under Long Island Sound? The Rye Record contacted one of the leading project finance experts in the country, and asked his opinion, on background, of the financial feasibility of the tunnel idea.

“If you are 50 or older, you can stop worrying about the tunnel,” said this Wall Street veteran. “You’ll be gone before it’s dug, if ever.” In this expert’s view, the regulatory obstacles are almost insurmountable. Getting approval, and fighting through lawsuits at every turn, would take as long as two decades and tens of millions of dollars – with no assurance of victory.

Long Island State Senator Carl Marcellino plans to hold a hearing on the project in Oyster Bay January 24, post press time. But, as yet, not one of the “powers that be” in Albany has voiced any support for the Cross Sound Link Tunnel. That prospect, according to a source in the Executive Branch, is “highly unlikely.”

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