Volume 75, Number 12 | August 10 - 16, 2005

Editorial


Rail-freight tunnel should be a priority

Included in the massive $286.4 billion transportation bill Congress passed two weeks ago are a few projects that will help Lower Manhattan: a few million for Governors Island and a bikeway connecting the Hudson and East River waterfronts, and $100 million for a rail-freight tunnel connecting New Jersey with Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Huh? How could a Jersey-Brooklyn project help Downtown?

The only real way for goods to get to Manhattan — and Long Island — now is by truck. The tunnel’s number one champion, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes the West Side, Lower Manhattan and part of Brooklyn, says one of many benefits of the project is that it would drastically reduce the truck traffic in Lower Manhattan and other parts of the city.

Traffic congestion — particularly on the Canal St./ Holland Tunnel corridor — is one of Downtown’s most serious problems and any relief would be more than welcome.

The tunnel proposal is indeed costly — estimates vary widely between $1.8 billion and $7.4 billion. But we feel it is worth doing compared to other transportation priorities.

Three years ago, we began calling on Governor George Pataki to set clear transportation priorities and resolve the bureaucratic turf wars over transportation and federal, post-9/11 dollars. There has been some movement since then, but sadly not enough. Pataki has 50 percent control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which made it clear in a recent New York Times article that it was not thrilled to get money for the freight tunnel. Mayor Bloomberg no longer supports the freight tunnel, either.

The planning and designing money secured by Nadler could and should spark these transportation debates that have been delayed too long. Some of the other big-ticket transportation items under discussion are the Second Ave. subway, a commuter rail connection between Penn and Grand Central stations and one that would be funded mostly through 9/11-related money — a Downtown rail link to J.F.K. Airport and the Long Island Rail Road.

We will not be able to do all of these projects. If the Downtown rail link ends up being killed, that money must be moved to a project offering unmistakable benefits for Lower Manhattan.

We should have been in a better position to decide these questions by now. Pataki’s lack of leadership can explain a good part of the uncertainty.

And let’s not forget a huge existing problem we’re still coping with on a daily basis: Thanks to the sweetheart deal between former Senator Al D’Amato and former Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari, we’re stuck with the reverse one-way toll they approved for the Verrazano Bridge. This misguided reward to Staten Island Republicans dumps hundreds of thousands of trucks on Manhattan and Brooklyn streets, bringing excess traffic and pollution to our neighborhoods.

A rail-freight tunnel would somewhat help alleviate the problems created by the wrong-way Verrazano toll. However, nothing short of remedying the problem — by changing the toll direction — is sufficient.

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