Correspondence from Robert Moses

The following correspondence from Robert Moses regarding proposed bridges across Long Island Sound can be found in his autobiography, Public Works: A Dangerous Trade (McGraw-Hill, 1970). Although this book is no longer in print, it can be found at the Avery Library at Columbia University.

"Western Long Island Sound Bridge Should Be Built Now"
Newsday editorial (December 23, 1967)

Not a dollar of Governor Rockefeller's transportation money can be used for the Long Island Sound Crossing (Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge). Direct responsibility of the state ends at the intersections of existing main thoroughfares. This crossing will run from the Oyster Bay area on Long Island to Rye in Westchester County, providing the best, cheapest and most logical route. It can be finished in 1971.

There is no competition or conflict whatsoever between an Oyster Bay-Rye crossing and a Port Jefferson-Bridgeport crossing. The first is required now. The second will be justified by population and traffic in another fifteen or twenty years.

The plans and financing of the Sound Crossing should include parks, landscaping and local approaches. The total cost of this complex will be about $160 million. The base toll will be $1.00. Even four-and-one-half percent interest would hardly be enough unless prudent, cautious investors believe in the prospective need, usage and revenue of the enterprise and have full confidence in its sponsors.

The fundamental question is need. This is proved by steady increases in cars over the three existing East River bridges overseen by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority: the Triborough, Bronx-Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges. The Throgs Neck Bridge will be crowded beginning in 1970 and thereafter all three, and the parkways and expressways leading in and out of town cannot provide smooth, uninterrupted traffic even out of commuting hours and peak loads without a bypass over the Sound between Oyster Bay and Rye.

This Sound Crossing should be regarded as more than a road over water. It is a giant link in the recreation system extending from Bear Mountain over the Bear Mountain Bridge, across northern Westchester to Rye, over the sound, and through Oyster Bay to the Jones Beach Tower.

The cute and mischievous approach of presumably responsible agencies like the transportation industry and the press to the problem of highway and bridge construction, and the need of avoiding overloading the spokes of the great wheel and bypassing the central city hub, is well illustrated by a recent tricky, misleading full-page ad of Braniff International in the
New York Daily News, showing peak-load late afternoon congestion on the Long Island Expressway and recommending in its place the exhilarating helicopter service from the top of the Pan Am Building to Kennedy Airport. "Flying Braniff," they say, "makes even Queens look beautiful." Tens of thousands of mechanized insects are barely crawling along. "You have a wonderful gloat," says this ad. An infinitesimal fraction of one percent of car riders is compared to helicopter passengers, of whom not one is bound in the expressway direction.

Now, as Al Smith said, "Let's look at the record." Two helicopters at a time crowd the Pan Am roof and only one whirlybird can fly at a time. This craft accommodates 25 passengers on a special short north-south restricted run, a run that has no relation whatever to general suburban commuter travel east and west on Long Island. Is there anyone sufficiently light-headed as to believe that the helicopter will replace the car and road, or that anything but exceptional men with common sense and courage will keep the various rival machines of transportation in balance?

What of the proper agency to build this crossing? There are four possibilities, each one requiring legislation. First, entrusting the responsibility to the existing New York State Thruway Authority; second, giving it to the new State Department of Transportation; third, referring it to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority as part of the new Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and fourth, establishing an entirely new authority. For many reasons, I do not see the first two as practical. The other two look workable. Obviously, the agency that can sell the bonds on the best terms is the one that should be selected.

Given a mandate by the Governor and notice to all and sundry that this crossing must be built without stultifying delays, it can be finished in 1971 before congestion of roads leading to the East River bridges becomes intolerable.

"The First Long Island Sound Bypass"
Newsday editorial (January 4, 1969)

When the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority opened the Throgs Neck Bridge, our third major arterial East River crossing from Queens to the Bronx, on January 11, 1961, we proved to prudent investors that such a bridge would pay out, but the need of additional crossings was little comprehended by the public.

The handwriting was already on the wall, but the prophets were ignored. Today, every Johnny-come-lately kibitzer and overnight critic remarks sarcastically how stupid we were, how lacking in imagination, and how all this planning should have been done long ago.

The obvious solution of bridge congestion lies in building a Sound Crossing from Oyster Bay to Rye, later a second crossing from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, and then a third crossing from Greenport to Old Saybrook. Cars, trucks and buses from eastern Long Island not bound for New York City but for Westchester, New England and points north, east and west must be kept out of western Nassau, Queens, the Bronx and southern Westchester, and diverted across the Sound.

The precedence of Sound crossings has been the subject of the usual, understandable controversy. There are opponents who want no crossing at all in the Oyster Bay-Rye area. They have raised money to fight, and they bring personal, political and other familiar pressures to bear. There are also those who would like the second crossing built first, and those who want the first two built together and at once.

Manifestly, the only plausible argument against immediate adoption of the Oyster Bay-Rye route is based on the hope of getting two crossings at once. The answers to proponents are simple and incontrovertible.

  • The Port Jefferson-Bridgeport crossing will not be needed as a traffic aid, and therefore will not be financially practical for ten to fifteen years. The need of the crossing in the Oyster Bay-Rye area to stop the overloading of parkways and bridges is immediate and obvious.

  • Any attempt to finance two crossings at once by combining the Oyster Bay-Rye and Port Jefferson-Bridgeport routes will kill both.

  • The Port Jefferson-Bridgeport crossing requires a bi-state treaty with Connecticut, approved by Congress, and the agency to plan, finance and build it will have to be bi-state in nature.

  • $150 million would be the limit of a salable, self-supporting Oyster Bay-Rye crossing authority bond issue without state credit, and at a fare of $1.00 per car. Incidental recreation, landscaping and other improvements would be included.

  • Studies of a second and ultimate third crossing further east on Long Island, involving a treaty with Connecticut, should be pursued diligently, but no haste is required except in acquisition of rights-of-way.

Every church, village green, wharf and old home on the east end of Long Island bears the birthmark of the Connecticut Colony. A third Sound Crossing from Greenport or East Marion to Old Saybrook would revive a great tradition, and eastern Long Island would become not merely a New York City suburb, but part and parcel of New England.

Those who want to rush new residents of small means out into agricultural and marine exurbia by vast industrial expansion and local employment give little thought to the question of whether the newcomers will be able to pay local taxes, and if not, what will become of the county economy.

The Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge gets down finally to approaches. Such approaches should ideally be determined with due regard to neighborhood growth, appearance and landscaping. The Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway, which is planned to run from Jones Beach to Oyster Bay, ends in a barren field and must go somewhere. A connecting route to the Cross Westchester Expressway and the New England Thruway is missing. These belong on the Federal-state highway program and are not chargeable to the new crossing. Perfectionists rarely achieve complete victories. They are compelled to accept compromises or invite a stalemate. If no major principle is involved, conceding something is not tragic. I see no major principle jeopardized in this instance.

To sum up, the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge is not an imposition, an intrusion, or an unexpected catastrophe flashed on uninformed homeowners. This crossing constitutes the only practical means of bypassing the overloaded parkways, expressways and East River crossings. It is no eyesore to destroy the Sound. The metropolitan bridges we have built in recent years, including the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, are our finest works of architecture and engineering.

History repeats itself. Before long, as has happened over and over again, the opponents will calm down and claim they were always in favor of the improvement.

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