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Verrazano-Sharrows Bridge: MTA considering bike path on Narrows span

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At long last, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seriously considering adding a bike path to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge — seriously.

Transit advocates have been clamoring for a car-less crossing practically since the bridge opened in 1964, and now the authority is committing $2.7 million to study the notion, officials said.

The transit agency is drawing up a master plan to spend $1.5 billion on repairs and improvements to the vehicular viaduct over the next 25 years, so while workers are under the proverbial hood, the authority decided to see where it could add value for the pedal-pushing set, according to a spokesman.

“With all this work that we have to do to make sure that it’s strong for another 50 years, this is as good a time as any to look at what are our priorities and what are our needs over the next couple decades,” said authority spokesman Adam Lisberg. “Looking at the possibility of a shared-use path is an obvious thing to include if you’re looking at the long-term.”

Officials are considering separate bike and pedestrian lanes on the outside of the bridge, according to Bernard Kalus of engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff.

New lanes would add considerable weight to the nearly-mile-long span of the suspension bridge, so contractors plan to reduce the span’s load by 12,000 tons first by replacing lower-deck concrete with stronger, lighter steel, Kalus said. Those improvements will likely happen whether or not the bike path materializes, because the authority hasn’t replaced the deck since it opened in 1969, Lisberg said.

Getting cyclists onto the path is another challenge, because the bridge’s lower deck is a little more than 12 stories above grade in Bay Ridge. Planners envision a bicycle ramp from Shore Road Park winding through John Paul Jones Park and up to the span. Pedestrians might access the bridge via a series of “switchback ramps” — similar to an apartment staircase without the steps — in Fort Hamilton, Kalus said.

But the authority would need the Parks Department and federal government to sign off on the ramps because they own the land, he said.

Joggers and cyclists can currently only mount the bridge twice a year, during the New York City Marathon and the Five-Borough Bike Tour respectively.

An ongoing pilot program allowing straphangers to bus their bikes over the bridge will help officials determine whether demand for a dedicated bicycle and walking path meets the project’s anticipated price tag of $300 million to $400 million, Lisberg said.

Bike-boosters say the study is a great first step, but they question the price tag. A 1997 Department of City planning study found a plan similar to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s would cost just $26.5 million — about $50 million today with inflation, a transportation advocate said.

“We haven’t seen their analysis so we don’t know what their assumptions are,” said Paul Steely White, director of Transportation Alternatives. “We would love to get another set of eyes on that because $50 million is a far cry from $300 million.”

The authority expects the bike-path study will be completed in 2017, according to a spokeswoman.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

MJ from Bay Ridge says:
graffiti vandals will love open access policy on the bridge.
Oct. 8, 2015, 5:21 am
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
Why not build light rail over the bridge that goes from Staten Island to 59 Street via Gowanus expressway on 7 Avenue.
Oct. 8, 2015, 5:25 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
There should have always been a train connection over that bridge, but then there would be fewer cars cars cars for Robert Moses to collect and embezzle tolls from. NYC will be dealing with these awful things for a century before they are fixed.
Oct. 8, 2015, 8:15 am
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Southside, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, United States says:
And this could be a current trend for the short-term as well as the long-term effects for transportation equity across many major cities across the United States.
Oct. 8, 2015, 9:13 am
Phantom from Bay Ridge says:
These " studies " including eternal " environmental impact statements " in NYC take seem to take much longer than anywhere else in the US or world.
Oct. 8, 2015, 11:30 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
If you don't mind my saying so, judging from the photograph above, it looks as though the walkways on the sides of the lower deck of this bridge could easily be used as bicycle lanes. Of course, this is just one man's opinion. What are they currently being used for, if you'll pardon my asking?
John Wasserman
Oct. 8, 2015, 12:29 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
Great idea. Another and even better idea would be to remove the tolls from this bridge and allow Staten Islanders to travel freely in their city.
Oct. 9, 2015, 9 am
Elle D from Staten Island says:
@John Wasserman - those side walkways don't exist, they are what is being proposed.
Oct. 9, 2015, 9:47 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I will only allow for bicycles to be on the VNB if they to have the pay the tolls when crossing it along with all other vehicles that use it.
Oct. 9, 2015, 3:18 pm
TOM from Brooklyn says:
$2.7 million to get back an answer we already know:
We can't find anyone who will hump that hill to work every day on foot or on bike so why bother. We have buses to pay for. Also the toll-paying drivers won't pay for it on top of the new toll that goes to pay the $1.5 billion fixer-upper.

What a waste. Give the 2.7 million to the MTA.
Oct. 9, 2015, 7:50 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
1 -- Elle D, John was joking. Obtuse is his style. 2 -- I agree with Tom about the hill. Also, wasn't it just reported that bike racks were being added to the buses?
Oct. 9, 2015, 8:07 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
It is a pipe dream. The average urban bicyclist could never pedal a bike up 12 stories over that length of ramp.

On the plus side, once the bike and pedestrian paths are in place, the suicides won't need to leave their cars parked on the bridge.
Oct. 9, 2015, 9:58 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Besides, wouldn't that ramp be an obstructive eyesore in the park?
Oct. 10, 2015, 7:07 am
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Southside, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, United States says:
I agree Tal, but only as a last resort if the MTA is having a budget crisis. However, like California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law permanently banning tolls on cyclists and pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge across the San Francisco Bay, that is not going to happen in the considerable future for the MTA to propose tolls on cyclists and pedestrians on their own bridges. The main reason why is because the projections of cyclists and pedestrians crossing these bridges are mineral. But that doesn't mean that the MTA will rule out tolls on cyclists and pedestrians for extra, necessary money.
Oct. 10, 2015, 10:58 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Pedro, I honestly feel that tolls should be removed altogether especially when they have already served their purpose of paying off what they were on. Using them as a revenue source not only makes them go much higher, it actually uses even less on where it's supposed to go to. I feel annoyed that many of the tolls have to pay for in the NYC metro area hardly even go to help fixing the infrastructure I use, and the politicians and MTA keep claiming that it should be higher in order to cover that when they don't. Believe it or not, driving isn't as subsidized as many claim it to be, and it's really the infrastructure that we use, and not the vehicles themselves. If that was the case, then the yearly fees that I pay for vehicle inspection along with renewing my license and registering every other year or so wouldn't be going up so much. Let's not forget that what got NYC to form the five boroughs back in 1898 was the promise that the tolls on the East and Hudson River crossings would be removed after they were paid off. Unfortunately, when Robert Moses saw the Triboro (now RFK) Bridge as a source of revenue, that's how the MTA got hold of this idea. Another thing is that many of the tolled crossings that I have used over my years are hardly ever in good shape compared to a lot of the so-called free crossings, and that's with the claim that the tolls help it move better. Overall, I have always found tolling to be both elitist and a regressive tax, which is why I see the Move NY Plan as nothing more than punishing those who have no viable alternatives to driving as if they don't have a choice but to pay penny out of pocket for it.
Oct. 10, 2015, 2:57 pm
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
V-N Bridge is the 2nd most expensive toll bridge in U.S.A. What a shame to people of NYC!
Oct. 10, 2015, 5:35 pm
Boris from Borough Park says:
MJ you are so right; having the 2nd highest toll in the country in NYC is an outrage. NY should be in first place always.
Oct. 10, 2015, 9:43 pm
Guest from NYC says:
@Tal, we want more people on bicycles. Tolling them is idiotic.

Removing the tolls on the VB is shortsighted as well. All that automotive congestion and weather break down the bridge.

Now if the Move NY plan were implemented, perhaps we could lower the tolls on it.
Oct. 13, 2015, 4:33 pm
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Southside, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, United States says:
Tal, the tolls for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as well as the other MTA operated bridges and tunnels are here to say for decades to come thanks to the massive annual debt service that drivers have to pay due to the runaway borrowing by the MTA for the last Capital Program. The MTA had no other choice but to use tolls as a revenue source because it will be used as a "State of Good Repair" projects on their bridges and tunnels. However, yet again, the MTA is crying foul for more "bloody money," thanks to their own fiscal mismanagement of their own funds for many of their own major capital projects, leaving many politicians in NYS on the sidelines, doing absolutely nothing. Anyway, based on your own experiences as a driver, thanks to our crumbling, surface, transportation infrastructure such as avenues, boulevards, expressways, freeways, highways, parkways, as well as streets in the NYC Metropolitan Area, your costs of using a vehicle skyrockets, and I am not talking about gasoline prices. Overall, the cost of living Inge NYC Metropolitan Area, regardless what kind of transportation we are using, keeps going up. Finally, as a recent college graduate with a major in history in Brooklyn College, I agree that there were tolls on the East a River Bridges until 1911 when NYC, were paid off with interest (and maybe an assassination attempt on the Mayor at the time could be another reason too). However, overtime, these bridges are crumbling and the NYC DOT did, do and will not a lot of funding to rehabilitate these bridges. It could lead to devastating consequences. I will give you a couple of examples: 1) A Japanese tourist was killed when the cable of the Brooklyn Bridge snapped and crushed him. To this day, the Brooklyn Bridge is receiving some funds, in order to be rehabilitated. 2) In 1981, Sam Schwartz, the NYC Traffic Commissioner at the time, discovered that the Williamsburg Bridge was deteriorating. He said that this bridge couple collapse in the matter of days. So, he shut down the bridge and received much needed necessary funding. And 3) The Kosciuszko Bridge is strained by a lot of traffic along Interstate 278. So, right now, a double, cable-stayed bridge is constructed and air will replace the older, current bridge in the next couple of years. BTW, they received state funding for the project. Meanwhile, as for the MOVE NY tolling plan, there is not a lot of political as well as public support from Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, despite moderate support from Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx. Even both the NYC Mayorand the MTA Chairman and CEO said that it is not politically feasible as of right now. However, the NYS Governor said that this proposal has merit, but it will be used in the longer term if outer own transportation infrastructure will be at the most critical and dangerous point.
Oct. 17, 2015, 10:01 am
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Southside, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, United States says:
BTW Tal, back to this story about the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: 1) These additional features would cost between $300 Million and 400 Million; and 2) The MTA had recently said that it is part of the Master Plan to rehabilitate the entire bridge, which it would take a couple of decades, worth up to $1.5 Billion.
Oct. 17, 2015, 10:05 am

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