Facing mounting public opposition to a plan to build a tunnel across the Long Island Sound, the State Department of Transportation last week nixed the project before it ever got beyond the concept stage.
In recent months, hundreds of Long Island residents had decried the project, which would have taken up to 15 years to build and connected the North Shore with Westchester County. Opponents said the tunnel could have destroyed the natural beauty of North Shore beaches and threatened wildlife.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had championed the project, was relatively quiet after the plan was canceled. Acting DOT Commissioner Paul Karas said, “After a careful review of a variety of considerations pertaining to the project, NYSDOT has decided not to move forward with it at this time.”
The tunnel design called for an 18-mile-long, multi-level tube with two lanes on each level. It would have stretched for nine miles under the Sound, and for nine miles underground, on the North Shore and in Westchester County. The entrances and exits would have been north of the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway and Jericho Turnpike, and south of the New England Thruway and Playland Parkway.
The estimated cost of the project was $31.5 billion, but some said it could have cost as much as $150 billion.
“I think the governor realized that the Assembly and Senate were not going to create a New York State Authority to build the tunnel,” said Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat from Glen Cove. “The projected cost was a fraction of what it would have cost.”
The DOT made the announcement on June 28, two days after the Glen Cove City Council passed a resolution opposing the tunnel plan.
The measure, introduced by Republican Councilman Joseph Capobianco, passed with bipartisan support, 5-0. Councilwoman Marsha Silverman, a Democrat, abstained from the vote, saying she was not given enough notice to research the topic. Councilman Kevin Maccarone was not present for the vote.
“We have a very sensitive Sound,” Mayor Tim Tenke said in supporting the resolution, adding that he had recently noticed improvements in the ecology of the area, and had even spotted a bald eagle.
With its resolution, Glen Cove joined the Town of Oyster Bay and the villages of Bayville, Centre Island, Mill Neck and Oyster Bay Cove in officially opposing the project. Nassau County legislators Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, Arnie Drucker and Josh Lafazan had also voiced their opposition.
A nonprofit, bipartisan organization, the Coalition Against an UnSound Crossing, was prepared to begin what it said would be an aggressive education campaign, including print and television advertising, to stir opposition to the project if it had moved forward.
John Taylor, who started the group with Bill Bleyer, a former Newsday reporter, said that organized public opposition might have caused the governor to rethink the state’s plans. The group was able to attract widespread media attention with a single news conference.
The Anti-Tunnel Committee, in Bayville, had also hosted a series of meetings in various North Shore communities in recent months. The group shared a PowerPoint presentation and encouraged people to write to the governor in opposition to the tunnel.
Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino held a news conference last Friday to celebrate the state’s decision to abandon the tunnel project. “For nearly a year we have stood together as a family to stop the tunnel,” he said, surrounded by legislators, village leaders and town council members. “But while we celebrate today, we must remain vigilant to make sure this plan never goes forward. No bridge, no tunnel, no way.”
State Sen. Carl Marcellino, a Republican from Syosset, said, “The forces that want this will still be out there. It’s time to cut the head off this snake and let it die.”
Taylor said that the UnSound coalition would continue its efforts. “We will stand over the grave of this thing and make sure it’s dead,” he noted.