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Commentary On:
Improving Regional Mobility:

Long-Range Investment Strategies For the Port Authority's Interstate Transportation Network

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, September, 1994

Comments by Daniel Convissor
17 October 1994

An excerpt was printed in the November/December 1994 edition of the Auto-Free Press

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) recently completed a new report: "Improving Regional Mobility", comparing four projects to bolster bi-state transportation. The analysis does an excellent job determining the economic and traffic flow consequences of these alternatives. Unfortunately, dare I say, the PA picked the project they want to justify and then compared it to only inferior options.

As a result, this study glorifies twinning the Goethals Bridge and widening the Staten Island Expressway. This combination got the highest economic and traffic flow rankings because it's the only one providing significant new capacity for passengers and cargo between New Jersey and Long Island (including Brooklyn and Queens). The Cross Bronx Expressway option contains minor capacity enhancements. The new rail line they studied would be a subway- like system from the Meadowlands to eastern Manhattan, so it would NOT: be a new segment of the commuter rail system, go to Long Island or serve freight.

An impressive job was done assembling the data and models. Though the transit and highway models are separate, they are linked. A transit project was modeled to determine how many auto drivers would be lured out of their cars and then the highway model determines the traffic flow consequences. The PA rightly assumes Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is good indicator of regional air quality. They do make an odd projection though, saying vehicular emissions will be reduced if the Goethals/SIE projects are done. Sadly, that projection will prove to be false. As with all capacity expansion projects, VMT will jump due to the project, hence, pollution will increase.

Heaps of delusional prose and environmental window dressing is no surprise in this context. For instance, the study says it "avoids main-line capacity expansion," calling the Goethals/SIE work a "vehicular network investment" that will "support expansion of 'commuting alternatives'." The PA waxes on about preserving open space and meeting the joined mandates of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). These statements show how hollow the CAA and ISTEA really are. The PA, along with transportation providers around the nation, pay lip service to alternative transport, give it a little more funding, then continue the highway business as usual.

Here's the alternatives the study examined:

The PA needs to compare the projects above with additional trans- Hudson alternatives that serve NJ LI trips. Below are some possibilities. While all of these are more expensive than the Goethals and SIE projects, some are likely to generate larger economic and environmental benefits:

It seems the PA is afraid to put the Goethals Bridge expansion up against these alternatives, fearing it will not come out on top. Only by comparing alternatives that have similar goals can the best project(s) be truly determined.

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