On Friday afternoon, the New York State Thruway Authority announced the 28 members of the Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force. Unlike the announcement of the committee that picked the winning bid to build to bridge, the task force announcement was made by the Thruway Authority, not Governor Cuomo himself, who has otherwise put himself front-and-center as the project’s public face. The announcement came nearly four months after the executives of Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam counties agreed to the task force in exchange for signing off on the Tappan Zee Bridge plan.
The panel has no binding authority, but if better transit along the I-287 corridor can be salvaged from the Tappan Zee project, the path forward starts with the transit task force. It includes local and county electeds, transportation professionals, and representatives of the business community — but strangely fails to include anyone from the MTA, which was one of the original conveners of the Traffic and Transit working group in the Tappan Zee planning process that Cuomo abandoned last year.
Sources had indicated to Streetsblog that members of the task force would be named after the bridge’s design selection committee had made a recommendation to the governor, because some individuals would serve in both groups. The task force and the design committee have nine members in common: DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald, Deputy Secretary for Transportation Karen Rae, Mark Roche of consulting firm Arup, Thruway board member Brandon Sall, Robert Yaro of the Regional Plan Association, village mayors Tish Dubow and Drew Fixell, and county executives Rob Astorino and C. Scott Vanderhoef.
Before the deal was reached to let the transit-less bridge move forward, a number of counties and towns had called on Cuomo to restore transit to the TZB project. One of the good signs in Friday’s announcement is that they are represented on the task force. The task force members who had signed on to TZB transit efforts led by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (represented on the task force by executive director Veronica Vanterpool) include the county executives, Tarrytown’s Fixell, Assembly Member Amy Paulin, and State Senators David Carlucci and Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
On the other side, task force member Marsha Gordon of the Business Council of Westchester County was a major cheerleader for Cuomo’s transit-less bridge proposal, and Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee was an early endorser.