New York should slow down the "breakneck" push toward a new Tappan Zee Bridge and take another look at alternatives including simply rehabilitating the existing Hudson River span, a key environmental group said Monday.
Riverkeeper said the state should also give more thought to including mass transit on the bridge and to digging a tunnel instead.
The new Tappan Zee would be two spans replacing an aging, overcrowded bridge across the Hudson in New York City's suburbs.
Commenting on the project's tentative environmental review, Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said the state had dismissed several options without sufficient public comment.
"They threw them all out except one and said, 'You're getting this bridge and you'll like it,'" Gallay said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pushing to get construction started this year, and his office says the project could create more than 23,000 jobs. In October, President Barack Obama declared the bridge eligible for fast-tracked federal approvals. The state issued a draft environmental impact statement in January, declaring the project would cause no significant lasting harm to the river.
Riverkeeper noted that the state was already doing tests in the riverbed before the commenting period had expired.
"Governor Cuomo and the state agencies involved have been pushing their plan forward at breakneck speed," the group said. "They have also made every effort to marginalize the public and shield themselves from public accountability, by giving the public only 60 days to weigh in on the largest public works/engineering project in the Hudson Valley's recent history."
A spokesman for the state Thruway Authority, which is leading the project, said the agency may comment later on Riverkeeper's comments.
Riverkeeper said the new bridge will be obsolete immediately because it will not include mass transit. Officials have said the expense is too great and the $5.2 billion bridge will be built in a way that mass transit can be added in the future.
The group said the state has not adequately studied the impact of dredging and pile-driving on Hudson River denizens, including the endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon.
Arguing for keeping the current bridge, it said the state-chosen alternative involves bridge towers twice the height of the current bridge and "would mar the beauty of the Hudson Valley for generations."
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