Following results published from a $5 million study conducted by engineering firm WSP of Montreal, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made a formal request to qualifying construction industry investors to express an interest in building what could potentially become the longest motor vehicle tunnel in the world.
The proposal to link Long Island and the mainland has been batted back and forth for decades, but recently regained momentum in 2008. This version of the plan would connect Route 135 (the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway) to I-287 in Westchester, likely somewhere in or between Rye and Port Chester.
The proposed tunnel, potentially costing taxpayers $55.4 billion, would stretch up to 18 miles and carry a toll as high as $25 each way. WSP however believes such a tunnel would alleviate enough traffic congestion both on Long Island and in Westchester to mitigate the costs. A significantly cheaper bridge from Connecticut was not part of the governor’s request, meaning the entire bill (and a portion of the toll proceeds, of course) would fall to New York State. With such a large price tag, it is expected that any such construction would result from a public-private partnership, so travelers may very well see a bevy of billboards as they drove from one end of the tunnel to the other.
Several lawmakers and local politicians have opposed the plan, on grounds from budgetary concerns to the perceived increase in traffic currently relegated to Long Island. Dan Schorr, a candidate for New York State Senate District 37 which includes larges swathes of Westchester and the Bronx, said in a press release, “Importing LIE traffic to Westchester will overwhelm our roads and communities, add billions of tons of carbon emissions into our air, and divert desperately needed infrastructure dollars from being spent where they are truly needed — on our existing roads, bridges, and rail systems.”
He added, “This was a bad idea in the 1930’s, it was a bad idea in the 1950’s, and it’s an even worse idea now.”
Even if plans push forward, between environmental studies, planning, and construction periods, WSP estimates it could be as much as eight years before a tunnel could actually open.