Gov. Andrew Cuomo is moving forward with plans to build a tunnel from Oyster Bay to Westchester County, which he said is vital to alleviate traffic congestion in the greater New York City area, connect Long Island to the mainland and ensure the Island’s future economic competitiveness.
The price the North Shore might have to pay could be very big, however.
We could see the region’s small-town feel erode as large-scale structures were erected and the area became increasingly urbanized. Think Queens. When the Throgs Neck Bridge was built in the late 1950s, Bayside was a quaint residential community. Not so much anymore.
With more traffic — and particularly more truck traffic — moving on and off Long Island, we could see Nassau County as a whole lose its suburban landscape as well. Property values, particularly on the North Shore, could drop.
The tunnel would be 18 miles long. Nine miles would be under land, and nine would be under the Long Island Sound. The entrances and exits are planned to be just north of the Seaford- Oyster Bay Expressway and Jericho Turnpike, and in Westchester, south of the New England Thruway and Playland Parkway.
Long Island motorists take the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges now to get to Westchester. How much time would the tunnel actually save anyone? According to estimates, it would take only 15 minutes to travel through the tunnel when traffic was optimal. The key word is optimal. If an 18-mile-long tunnel were congested, or worse, and traffic was blocked, you could be sitting for a long time, just as you might on the Cross- Bronx Expressway. With no way out but forward, if an accident were to occur, motorists could be stuck in the tunnel for hours.
The governor’s 2017 feasibility study, crafted to consider transportation alternatives, estimates that 86,400 vehicles would use the tunnel per day, 3,715 of which would be trucks. Pollution, both in emissions and noise, would undoubtedly increase locally, especially in Syosset.
Communities like Bayville, Oyster Bay, Oyster Bay Cove and Centre Island would experience a big increase in air pollution as well while the tunnel was being built, which, according to estimates, would take 12 to 15 years.
We really cannot take the state’s timeline seriously, though. The MTA’s East Side Access project was supposed to be finished by 2019. Last week, its completion was delayed to 2022.
Costing an estimated $31.5 billion, the tunnel would require ventilation and access shafts that would be several city blocks wide near its center. The shafts, too, would add pollution locally, and would be eyesores.
Bayville is a quiet seaside community. Many residents say they moved there to escape the noise and hectic lifestyle of other parts of Long Island. Those who live on the shore say they can hear beachcombers talking from quite a distance at night. If the ventilation and access shafts were built, people would hear only their industrial droning, which would drown out all other sounds, including the bird calls that local people so adore.
Many area residents also worry about the potential environmental threats that the tunnel might pose. It would stretch under the sound, where the Lloyd Aquifer can be found. Building the tunnel would require drilling through the aquifer, the lone source of pristine drinking water for the area. The governor’s study does not provide any details on how the drilling would be completed without disturbing the aquifer.
Additionally, the tunnel would be located under Centre Island, where residents depend solely on wells, which could be destroyed when the tunnel is built.
It’s also important to remember that traffic would travel both ways. People from Westchester and elsewhere up north might come to the already uncomfortably crowded Jones Beach, populating it further, for example.
The Throgs Neck Bridge was built to alleviate traffic on the Whitestone Bridge. Now both bridges are clogged. The tunnel could become a traffic nightmare, too.
Or worse, it might not be used much at all. No one is really sure. With the tolls predicted to be $20 one way, it could be too costly for many. And then we would have done irreparable harm to the region’s already fragile environment and upended local communities for nothing.
Tell the governor you don’t need or want a tunnel in Nassau County.