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Monday, March 26, 2012

The case of the $400 million bike lane

Public transportation projects are often wasteful and do not fund and/or maintain existing bridges and highways. Replacing New York's Tappan Zee Bridge has been condemned by some as a wasteful public project to create union jobs and praised by others a necessary. The bike path aspect of the project includes creating bike lanes on the new bridge and converting the old bridge to one giant bike bridge.  The writer makes the point that it's a waste of money because the Tappan Zee bike lanes wouldn't serve any useful purpose and that for the astounding sum of $400 million, the biking infrastructure in all five boroughs could be much improved.
Everybody’s favorite transportation geek, Charles Komanoff, has a fascinating new paper out on the economics of New York’s new Tappan Zee Bridge. The old bridge is decrepit, and needs to be replaced — everybody agrees on that. And the replacement is now in the works, at a cost of $5.2 billion...The new bridge comes with a combined bike/pedestrian lane, 12 feet wide. And the cost of building that lane — the amount that the cost of the bridge would decrease if you simply built it without that lane — is an astonishing $400 million. To put that number in perspective, Komanoff tells me it would cost roughly $40 million, in the same 2015 dollars, to build two bike/pedestrian lanes on the Verrazano Narrows bridge — lanes which would get vastly more traffic than the one lane on the new Tappan Zee. As for the cost of the first three years of New York City’s ambitious bike program under transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, that was just $8.8 million, 80% of which was paid by the federal government. In other words, for the $400 million which governor Andrew Cuomo is planning to spend on a white-elephant bike lane almost nobody is going to use, you could utterly transform the bicycling infrastructure for millions of New Yorkers in all five boroughs. Oh, and I almost forgot — it looks as if the old Tappan Zee bridge is going to be converted into a bike/pedestrian walkway anyway, making such a facility on the new bridge even more superfluous.
Read the rest here

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