Friday morning’s 50th anniversary celebration for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn, has been overshadowed not just by recent news that its toll may increase, but also by the work of activist group Right of Way. The organization ran a banner that read “50 YRS & NO BIKE/PED PATHS? OPEN THE VERRAZANO NOW!” over Friday’s press event.
The group noted in its press release that in 1997, Amman & Whitney, the firm that designed the bridge, proposed a solution that would accomodate “twin 8-10 foot wide paths” on the “existing bridge structure without affecting vehicular traffic lanes.” It would cost, in today’s dollars, $40 million.
That number sounds high, but the Right of Way argues it’s just a tiny fraction of the MTA’s budget:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the Verrazano, is finalizing a $32 billion budget for its next (2015-2019) 5-year capital plan. Even if the 1997 cost estimate were adjusted for price inflation and increased to allow for extra-wide walking and cycling lanes, the project would increase the authority’s capital budget by only 0.2%.
Reflecting the boom in active transportation, a new study of pedestrian and bicycle paths is expected to be completed in late 2015 or early 2016. Right of Way, the group that organized today’s fly-over, calls on the MTA and Governor Cuomo to fast-track this study and green light the project. “The capital budget already includes the money for resurfacing the bridge,” said Keegan Stephan, an organizer with Right of Way, “so now is the time to add these paths.”
But the money doesn’t have to come from the MTA. Stephan told ANIMAL via e-mail that existing tolls could pay for the paths as well. “We actually learned yesterday at the City Council hearing on bikes that since this is a physical improvement to the bridge, the paths could be paid for with the tolls, meaning they would not affect the larger MTA budget,” he said.
The George Washington and Williamsburg Bridges, so what’s keeping the city from building them on the Verrazano? “Lack of political will,” said Stephan. “However, for all the reasons stated inour release, now’s the time.”
(Photo: Rabi Abanour/Right of Way)