VERRAZANO BIKE PATH
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Keegan Stephan, 907.244.6426, KeeganStephan@gmail.com
New York, NY: Today, the direct-action traffic-justice group Right of Way photo-bombed the 50th-anniversary celebration of the Verrazano Bridge by flying a 200-foot banner reading 50 YEARS & NO BIKE/PED PATHS? OPEN THE VERRAZANO NOW! directly between the ceremony and the bridge.
Advocates for active transportation — bicycling and walking — have sought for decades to gain access to the Verrazano. A 1997 federally funded study by Amman & Whitney, the firm that designed the bridge, concluded that twin 8-10 foot wide paths could be adapted to the existing bridge structure without affecting vehicular traffic lanes for a cost of $26.5 million; that figure, which included access ramps, equates to $40 million in today’s dollars.
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.”
“South Brooklyn and Staten Island have been excluded from the boom in cycling infrastructure that is paying health and transportation dividends to other New York City neighborhoods and residents,” said Stephan. “Much of Manhattan and parts of north Brooklyn have Bike Share, sections of Queens are being added soon, and the Bronx has miles of new bike paths. Opening the Verrazano will create new vistas for nearby commuters, sporting enthusiasts and families while bringing tourist dollars to local businesses.”
In addition, Right of Way argues that the paths would:
• Fill a key gap in the Harbor Ring Route, a 50-mile recreational route around the New York Harbor intended to link Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan with Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne.
• Create a toll-free option for crossing the bridge.
• Supplement the transportation capabilities of the city and region.
• Bolster the resiliency of the region with non-gasoline dependent options in the event of another natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy.
If the governor and the MTA commit to bringing equal access to the Verrazano in five years, the celebration in both boroughs on Nov. 21, 2019 will surpass all its predecessors combined, Right of Way predicts.
Speaking on the Brian Lehrer show in the lead-up to this anniversary, Gay Talese, author of The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (Bloomsbury USA, 2014), invoked the legendary architect Othmar Ammann who designed all of the great NYC-area bridges from the George Washington to the Verrazano, saying that Ammann “believed these [the GWB and the VNB] were twin beauties, not one more than the other. So we have in this city, over the Hudson in both cases, two beautiful bridges.” [www.wnyc.org/story/gay-talese-verrazano-bridge-50th/, minute 18:30.]
“But the greatest beauty of a bridge is observed while crossing it,” said Keegan Stephan. “And while thousands of pedestrians and cyclists cross the George Washington Bridge daily, they are barred from the Verrazano. The time is long overdue for the Verrazano to twin the George Washington in this aspect of beauty, utility and equity.”