Gov. Andrew Cuomo is building a bridge to the future. Actually, seven bridges, two tunnels, three airports and hundreds of toll plazas to the future.
Cuomo’s monumental, $100 billion transportation improvement plan is his and the MTA's idea to make all of New York’s major crossings—many of which are 75 years old or more—safer, faster and more beautiful.
Renderings released Wednesday reveal his New York Crossings Project, a “transformational plan to reimagine New York’s bridges and tunnels for 21st century.” They include flood and earthquake reinforcements, improved security techniques and technology, automatic tolling, and veils of programmable lights that will be visible from miles away and expect to draw tourist attention.
The LED lighting and the "automatic" or cashless tolling will be among the first projects to be completed.
The $100 billion are already earmarked for state transportation and infrastructure improvements, which will also fund the re-building of LaGuardia airport and other transportation hubs. The plan appears to have widespread endorsement from government and transportation officials.
"New York's bridges and tunnels are used by millions of people each year and essential to our entire region's economic success. Cuomo has put forward a plan to reimagine our transportation system for the 21st century and it will result in less traffic, increased capacity, and more durability to withstand natural disasters," said state Sen. Joseph Roback, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Another aspect of this multi-part undertaking is to implement new tunnel barriers to control floods. And “seismic measures” on bridges provide for long-term protection from earthquakes and other natural forces.
One part of the plan will be to institute automatic tolling at all MTA bridges and tunnels; automatic tolling eliminates all cash lanes, so if you do not have EZ-Pass, camera-scanners will record your car’s plates and then send a bill for the toll (no fine). This is intended to reduce traffic congestion and decrease emissions.
Improvements of the Reimagine New York project include:
Energy efficient LED lighting for better visibility and energy sustainability and beautification:
- LED lighting will be adopted at all MTA bridges and tunnels which lasts six times longer and is up to 80 percent more energy efficient.
- NYC will redesign tunnel plazas with cutting edge- “veils” and arches with artistic wave designs made from chainmail fabric that moves with the wind and can be programmed for light shows.
- LED message boards
Automatic or “open road tolling” to reduce traffic congestion – Beginning in January sensors and cameras will be suspended over highway structures or “gantries” and vehicles will not be required to stop even if you don’t have E-Z Pass: license plates will be recorded and the registered owner is billed by mail.
Enhanced security and counterrorism:
- Antiterrorism teams, state police, and the National Guard will join forces with traffic enforcement teams at crossings to develop new cross-agency protocols.
- Special barricade trucks will be positioned at both ends of each crossings to intervene in emergencies.
- Cameras and sensors will be installed and will also test new facial-recognition software.
Flood protection – Tunnels will have new air-tight barriers to block floodwater and improved pumping capacity.
Seismic stableization – Upgrades to make MTA bridges more flexible in the event of an earthquake using “seismic isolation bearings” that allow for rotation, new reinforcing bridge columns, and concrete armor units in the underwater structures.