The Mayor sent the following response to the NYS Department of Transportation concerning the Tappan Zee Bridge DEIS.
This letter provides the comments of the Village of Nyack (“Village”) on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) for the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project (PIN 8TZ1.00) (“Project”) dated January 18, 2012.
Chapter 2: Project Alternatives
The DEIS considers only two alternatives, a No-Build option, and a two-structure bridge. The No-Build option is only sustainable over a very short time period, as many studies have demonstrated, and cannot therefore be considered a realistic alternative. The Rehabilitation, Tunnel, and Single Structure alternatives (hereinafter referred to as the “discarded alternatives”) have been summarily dismissed in the State’s apparent haste to move the project forward, and are only give token consideration as alternatives in this document. The DEIS is therefore a single alternative document which does not meet the requirements of NEPA and SEQRA.
The financial development and consideration of a single alternative, and the lack of a funding structure for that alternative, precludes the State from providing sufficient analysis of the economic impact of this and the discarded alternatives on the communities. The possibly drastic increases in tolls as a funding mechanism would have a devastating impact on the economy of the Village and the region as a whole, which impact has not been addressed in the DEIS. Furthermore, the lack of a clear and developed financial and funding plan prevents realistic comparison of the single alternative with the discarded alternatives and similarly does not allow coordinated consideration with non-financial impacts and benefits of the various alternatives.
Chapter 3: Process, Agency Coordination, and Public Participation
As a community directly adjacent to, and substantially affected by the Project, the Village has not been afforded or invited to sufficient opportunities to engage in the process. While the state did invite numerous communities to become coordinating or participating agencies, their subsequent lack of effort to directly engage these communities has resulted in a lack of analysis of the impacts to those communities or representation of those communities in the Project effort.
The DEIS has not sufficiently demonstrated consideration of regional transportation planning efforts such as the Rockland Landing, nor coordinated its alternatives analysis to maximize the public investment. Specifically, noise and community impact reductions represented by capping the thruway at the Rockland Landing, adjacent to the Village, could be provided with less investment if performed in conjunction with the Project.
The public comment period and previously granted 15-day extension is insufficient for the Village to perform the necessary review of this document and its attachments. Given the significance of this project to the Village, which will be substantially impacted by it, we have not been provided sufficient time to solicit comments from our community or to prepare our own comments as representatives of the community. The total length of the public comment period and extension is not commensurate with the magnitude of the project compared with other projects in the region. For example, the Haverstraw Desalination Plant/United Water project’s public comment period was extended from March 19, 2012 to April 20, 2012, for a total of 98 days. The “Millennium Pipeline” project in Haverstraw had a 45-day extension. Both of these projects were only a fraction of the scope and magnitude of the River Crossing Project, and similarly had only a fraction of the potential for such great economic, environmental, and other impacts as the River Crossing Project will have on the Village and surrounding communities.
The State and the DEIS, in failing to implement any transit alternatives, have undermined the process by ignoring the substantial and well documented individual and community support for transit alternatives demonstrated in earlier stages of the process. The State and the DEIS, in providing what appears to be an inflated estimate of the possible costs of implementation, have totally failed to meet their duties to the public, and to State Smart Growth policy. We believe that only a substantive cost analysis of transit alternatives, in coordination with a well-developed financial and funding plan can sufficiently address the public interests and State Policy.
Chapter 4: Transportation
The DEIS states that the Project does not preclude future transit options. The primary proposed method of integrating such transit options in the future, however, is through construction of a third bridge either between or beside the proposed two-span alternative. Such construction, since it would not be performed in conjunction with removal of an existing bridge span, would likely be considered to have substantial and cumulative impacts. Furthermore, construction of a third bridge span in the future would represent substantial additional cost in comparison to concurrent construction with a more integrated design. The village feels, therefore, that the proposed single alternative does, in fact, preclude integration of transit options in the future.
The DEIS provides an estimate for Bus Rapid Transit that is drastically out of line with prior estimates and other similar projects in the country. Without a more thorough demonstration of the development of this estimate, it appears to the Village that this cost has been artificially inflated to remove such transit option integration, and to avoid taking the time to seriously consider such an alternative.
As the DEIS does not provide a well-defined financial plan or funding structure, it cannot accurately claim that transit option integration is too expensive. The State should not, on the one hand, dismiss transit options as being too expensive, while at the same time fail to analyze impacts and benefits of those transit options on all other measures.
The proposed design’s inclusion of extra-wide lines for emergency access, while an improvement for public safety, are not necessarily in line with standard bridge design practice, and have not been sufficiently analyzed in comparison with either the discarded alternatives, nor with the unimplemented transit options.
Chapter 5: Community Character
As the DEIS is a single alternative document, it has not sufficiently addressed comparative impacts on community character. By stating that the single alternative has no impact, it ignores the positive impacts that a tunnel option would ostensibly have on Community Character, specifically by improving viewsheds and reducing noise. It has, therefore, also not demonstrated that the Project maximizes public investment
Chapter 8: Socioeconomic Conditions
The DEIS provides insufficient consideration of Socioeconomic impacts due to its lack of a clear financial plan and funding structure. Additionally, the failure to consider the effects of tolls without providing transit alternatives could result in a substantial and drastic change to the Village economy directly, to the region as a whole, and the second order effects of regional economic losses to the Village. The final statement that the Project would not adversely impact the study area populations and that mitigation would not be required is therefore entirely unsubstantiated.
Chapter 9: Visual and Aesthetic Resources
The DEIS failure to consider the discarded alternatives is also a failure to provide consideration of the visual and aesthetic improvements from, for example, a tunnel alternative.
The lack of a well-defined superstructure and substructure in even the single alternative presented prevents the DEIS from providing a substantive analysis of visual and aesthetic impacts, nor does it allow comparison with the discarded alternatives.
Chapter 11: Air Quality
By eliminating the transit options from the Project, and the presentation of a single alternative, the DEIS fails to provide a substantive analysis of the alternatives and possible improvements to air quality, or minimization of air quality impacts under future growth scenarios.
Chapter 12: Noise and Vibration
As the DEIS is a single-alternative document, it fails to sufficiently analyze comparative noise impacts with the discarded alternatives. The tunnel structure, for example, would likely substantially reduce noise in the surrounding community. The DEIS has also, therefore, not demonstrated maximization of the public investment.
Chapter 13: Energy and Climate Change
As the DEIS has eliminated transit options from the single alternative presented, it has substantially failed to demonstrate that the Project maximizes the public investment. The statement that the project has no impact relative to the existing structure fails to anticipate regional growth and the opportunity to actually improve energy use and emissions by implementing transit options.
Chapter 15: Water Resources
As the DEIS is a single alternative document, it provides insufficient analysis and comparison that may be represented by the discarded alternatives. For example, runoff from the roadbed of the single alternative clearly has a greater impact that collected and treated runoff of a tunnel alternative.
Chapter 16: Ecology
The DEIS has neglected to analyze impacts to the Critically Endangered Atlantic Sturgeon population, specifically as it neglects to address construction means and methods within the document. We feel this to be an irresponsible approach as the Project is directly adjacent to their anadromous spawning grounds, and the discarded alternatives may impose much lower impacts to this and other species.
Chapter 17: Hazardous Waste and Contaminated Materials
The DEIS fails to address the existing PCB’s in the river sediments, how construction and dredging activities would disturb these Hazardous Materials, and the immediate and cumulative impacts of the same. Given the extent of the GE Hudson River superfund cleanup project, it would also be appropriate to examine cumulative impacts of the concurrent projects on PCB’s in the water column.
Chapter 18: Construction Impacts
The DEIS defers addressing or evaluating construction impacts by stating that they are unknown at this time. If the DEIS proceeds in this fashion, it would be appropriate to anticipate a second EIS process for construction of the bridge. NEPA and SEQRA policy are insufficiently addressed in this manner as such a separation would be considered project segmentation, and the Village believes it would be appropriate to plan and include construction means and methods at this time.
Impacts and permanent losses to oyster beds of 13 acres have been stated as unavoidable due to dredging and possible armoring of the river bottom. Since the DEIS is a single alternative document, it has not demonstrated that these impacts are unavoidable, nor provided sufficient alternatives analysis comparing cost differentials of various alternatives to that may be avoidable in one alternative versus another.
Chapter 19: Environmental Justice
The DEIS has not provided sufficient financial analysis of the Project to effectively determine if the Project would result in a disproportionately high and adverse impact on minority and low-income populations. The lack of complete costs, including a full analysis of the discarded alternatives, and the lack of a funding structure for the Project prevents a determination of these impacts. For example, substantial increases in tolls would clearly be a disproportionate impact to individuals without the resources to relocate or find alternative employment in response to such a financial burden.
Chapter 20: Coastal Area Management
The DEIS fails to properly perform CMP policy review as it is a single alternative document. Without performing serious consideration of the discarded alternatives, the Project has not demonstrated compliance with Policy 1, “Restore, revitalize, and redevelop deteriorated and underutilized waterfront areas for commercial, industrial, cultural, recreational, and other compatible uses.” The tunnel alternative, for example would allow restoration of significant coastal resources by allowing repurposing of the reclaimed waterfront areas for redevelopment and public use.
Chapter 21: Indirect and Cumulative Effects
The DEIS does not consider the indirect and cumulative effects on local property values, and local transportation and parking issues possibly imposed by the introduction of the shared use path. While these effects are possibly orders of magnitude less than the total Project cost, they are nevertheless substantial to the many small communities adjacent to the Project.
Chapter 22: Other NEPA and SEQRA Considerations
As the DEIS is a single-alternative document, NEPA and SEQRA process has not been completed. The statement that all impacts are unavoidable with no reasonable alternatives is incorrect as no alternatives have been given equal and complete review effort (or even substantial effort) to make a complete assessment.
In making the statement that the single alternative provided by the DEIS does not preclude future transit integration (which statement is not accepted as correct by the Village as presented in other comments) we believe the future preclusion of transit options, as well as the failure to maximize the public investment to this extent, subsequently fails to meet the requirements of the New York State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act. NEPA and SEQRA process have therefore not been satisfied in this regard.
While the DEIS has a substantial amount of content, due to the comments given above and the key deficiencies they represent, the Village feels this document is incomplete. The State should not be allowed to proceed to preparation and submittal of a Final Environmental Impact Statement at this time by merely providing token responses to the comments of the Village and numerous other individuals, organizations, and communities. Rather, a more complete DEIS should be prepared with consistently applied and thorough analysis of ALL alternatives, including those previously discarded in their apparent haste, and the public review process should be restarted at that time.
In summary, the Village of Nyack asserts that the DEIS as written is flawed, incomplete, inadequate and insufficient under the law. Further, the Village asserts that the public comment period is inadequate for any municipality to adequately comment, and therefore to fulfill its duty to the citizenry it represents and serves. Our submission of this response is not a waiver of the Village’s request for an extension to comment, but an attempt to make some of our objections known despite the inadequate review and comment period.
Mayor, Village of Nyack
This letter was sent to:
Michael P. Anderson
New York State Dept. of Transportation
4 Burnett Boulevard
Poughkeepsie, New York 12603