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This 1965 rendition by design firm Madigan-Hyland shows the proposed Oyster Bay-Ray Bridge (I-287) across Long Island Sound. It was to have been among the earliest cable-stay bridges in the United States. (Photo by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.)

"When it comes to a bridge or tunnel across the Sound... it's not a pie-in-the-sky idea. The technology is there. The question is: Is it politically feasible? Don't leave that word out. That's the only application of feasible that matters here on Long Island." -- Lee Koppelman, executive director of the Long Island Regional Planning Board, in a 2001 Newsday interview

SPANNING THE SOUND: When the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135) was first proposed in 1954, master builder Robert Moses placed its northern terminus near a planned ferry terminal. Moses planned for ferries to connect Oyster Bay on Nassau County's north shore with Stamford, Connecticut, twelve miles across Long Island Sound.

The idea for a bridge, or series of bridges across Long Island Sound, first surfaced in 1957 when Charles H. Sells, a former New York State Public Works Commissioner, proposed two spans. One span would connect Oyster Bay with the Rye-Port Chester area of Westchester County. The second span would connect Orient Point, the eastern end of Long Island's north fork, with Watch Hill, Rhode Island. While Sells thought these spans to be feasible from an engineering standpoint, he did not recommend their construction until Long Island had more commerce and traffic.

By 1964, Long Island had undergone its transformation from a rural outpost to a thriving suburban area, and congested had developed on the east-west arteries between the island and New York City. A significant percentage of this traffic, particularly on the Long Island Expressway and Northern State Parkway, was bound for upstate New York and New England. In order to reach these destinations, Long Island motorists had to traverse the Throgs Neck and Bronx-Whitestone Bridges, which were fast approaching their respective design capacities. To address this congestion, Moses, who chaired the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), joined with the New York State Department of Public Works to commission a study for an Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge. This initial $150,000 feasibility study was conducted by the engineering firm Madigan-Hyland, Incorporated.

In February 1966, Moses released the findings of this study before a meeting of the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board. The Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge (originally called the "Bayville-Rye Bridge") was to complete the Interstate 287 beltway around the New York metropolitan area by connecting the Cross Westchester Expressway with the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway. The 6.1-mile Sound crossing, which would include a cable-stayed suspension bridge with a 1,200-foot main span, was to cost $150 million. The idea received support from New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, as well as from many Long Island officials.

When the TBTA merged into MTA on March 1, 1968, Moses, who had shaped the New York area for more than four decades, was reduced to an advisory post at the new agency. As part of accepting the new MTA advisory post, Moses was given the promise - or so it appeared - of having a leading role in the construction of the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge. However, it would be only a promise, not a guarantee.

From Robert A. Caro's
The Power Broker:

There were various excuses from Rockefeller's office - in 1969, the bond market was soft and the issue couldn't be floated at feasible rates; in 1970, there was a gubernatorial campaign, and, with the affected section of Long Island and Westchester up in arms against the bridge, the Governor didn't want to be put on the spot; in 1971, it was the financing problems again; in 1972, a legislative campaign and the Governor didn't want to damage Republican chances to hold control of the Legislature - with each delay, Moses was assured that next year would be the year the big project got underway.

Rockefeller defused the explosive Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge issue when he ran for re-election in 1970 by ordering a temporary halt to planning, and by requesting a second $160,000 feasibility study. That year, new Federal environmental laws stipulated that environmental impact studies had to be conducted for the bridge and its approaches.

This 2007 photo shows a scale model of the proposed cable-stay span on the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge looking southeast toward Long Island. (Photo from the Queens Museum of Art exhibit "Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Road to Recreation.")

THE OVERALL PROJECT: In November 1972, the MTA and NYSDOT submitted a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge. The entire project was to encompass not only the bridge, but also the approaches, for a total of 16.5 miles from the I-95 / I-287 interchange in Rye to the NY 135 / NY 25 interchange in Syosset. It was to be part of the Interstate highway system as part of an extended I-287, as per New York State's submission of new Interstate mileage under the Federal Highway Act of 1968.

The following paragraphs in this section are from
Long Island Sound Crossing, an information booklet published by the MTA and NYSDOT in December 1972. The booklet summarizes the findings of the Environmental Impact Statement.

DESCRIPTON OF THE BRIDGE: The crossing will consist of a series of spans with the main opening presently proposed to be centered one and one-half to two miles north of the Long Island shore, where the majority of commercial vessels now travel. The main span will be 1,200 feet center-to-center between the towers, and will provide a minimum of 135 feet vertical clearance above mean high water. These clearances are not less than the minimums now provided at the existing crossings of the East River, which is a continuation of the Long Island Sound waterway.

Lesser clearances are provided by the flanking and approach spans. The minimum spans are proposed to be 100 feet long, with vertical clearances of 25 feet. To accommodate recreational boating and shallow draft commercial vessels, a section with greater clearances, including a 200-foot center span 55 feet above mean high water, is planned near the Westchester shore. All clearances and the locations of spans are subject to approval by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Preliminary studies of the bridge structure provide for four traffic lanes plus a median divider. It is planned that the main span will be a cable-stiffened box girder that can provide a structure with clean lines of pleasing proportions.

DESCRIPTION OF WESTCHESTER APPROACH: Four alternative approach routes are under consideration in Westchester. Three of these, W-1, W-2 and W-3, which are each about one and one-half miles long, cross a part of the northeast corner of the undeveloped area of Playland Park. The fourth alternative, which is about one-half mile long, passes through Port Chester Harbor adjacent to North Mansuring Island.

The approach routes are being planned as controlled-access roadways with two lanes in each direction, to be separated by a median wide enough to accommodate an additional lane in each direction, should the need for this develop in the future.

Crossings of Playland Lake and other wetland areas will be on a low viaduct structure. Alternatives W-1 and W-2 will continue inland generally as a depressed section between Kirby Lane and Forest Avenue. Route W-3 follows a narrow spit of land between Kirby Pond and the water behind Mansuring Island. The roadways will be designed to take advantage of natural contours in order to blend into the topography. Retaining walls, side slopes and screening will also be used to reduce property takings and visual effects.

DESCRIPTION OF NASSAU APPROACH: From the shoreline southward, three alternative approach routes are being considered in Nassau County. Alternative N-1 goes from Oak Neck Point southward under Bayville Avenue to a crossing of Mill Neck Creek at its narrowest point. The roadway will generally be in deep cut, as much as 40 feet below the ground surface. It will cross Mill Neck Creek on a 1,100-foot viaduct, providing approximately 60 feet of vertical clearance. Through Mill Neck, the roadways will also be in deep cut and will generally be hidden from nearby properties. The route then parallels West Shore Road into the community of Oyster Bay and connects with the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway extension at NY 106. Much of the property for the expressway extension, which is planned to pass through East Norwich and Syosset, has already been purchased.

From a bridgehead slightly to the east of N-1, alternative N-2 passes under Bayville Avenue and crosses Mill Neck Creek on a 2,000-foot viaduct, with vertical clearances varying from 35 to 45 feet. It passes in cut through Mill Neck before joining the N-1 route north of Cleft Road.

Alternative N-3 entails a longer Sound bridge paralleling the shore of Bayville and touching down near Ferry Beach. The route passes to the east of the Bayville business district and then crosses over the entrance to Mill Neck Creek on a viaduct with 30 feet of vertical clearance, just east of the existing Bayville drawbridge.

Interchange locations and configurations will be finally determined through consultation with the communities. It is presently planned to provide ramps at Bayville Avenue to and from the south only. This will permit local residents to use the approach route, but will avoid use of local roads for bridge access. Full (cloverleaf) interchanges are planned at NY 106 and NY 25A (North Hempstead Turnpike).

Approach alternatives N-1 and N-2 are slightly more than four miles in length, while N-3 is a little more than three miles long. The section of the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway between NY 106 and NY 25 is about four and one-half miles long.

ESTIMATED PROJECT COSTS: Preliminary cost figures have been prepared on the basis of the data available to date. For the purpose of establishing price levels, it has been assumed that bids for construction contracts will be received between mid-1974 and the end of 1975.

The bridge proper and the immediate approaches as far as the first connecting route on each side will be financed through the issuance of revenue bonds to be repaid by tolls. The limits of the toll-supported facilities are the Cross Westchester Expressway (I-287) / New England Thruway (I-95) interchange on the Westchester side, and Bayville Avenue on the Nassau side. The estimated construction cost between these limits is approximately $200 million, including rights-of-way, engineering and administration. Federal and state funding will apply to the roadways outside of the limits of the toll project defined above. It is estimated that the approach road as far as NY 106 in Nassau will cost between $52 million and $72 million, depending on the route selected. The completion of the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway between NY 106 and NY 25 (Jericho Turnpike) will require an estimated additional $25 million.

BRIDGE CONNECTING ROADS: Particular attention should be given to possible effects on traffic conditions on the highways directly connecting with the proposed crossing. On the Nassau side, the bridge approaches will connect directly with the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135), which will be extended from its present northern terminus at NY 25. This artery is moderately used at present, and the total traffic anticipated is well within the capacity of the highway.

In Westchester County, the bridge approach will lead directly into the Cross Westchester Expressway-New England Thruway interchange. Concern has been expressed at the local level about the ability of the Cross Westchester Expressway (I-287) to handle the additional traffic that the Long Island Sound crossing will bring. Most traffic that will use the bridge is now using the Cross Westchester Expressway by way of New York City and Westchester highways. The New York State Department of Transportation has addressed itself to this problem, has compiled traffic and operating data, and has concluded that there is sufficient capacity on the main line of the Cross Westchester Expressway to provide a good level of service for many years to come; even with the addition of some bridge traffic, but a program of improving the ramps and service roads along the I-287 corridor is needed. The Department has committed itself to a continuing program for upgrading this corridor. This program is already underway, and will include such measures as ramp improvements, extra lanes on the Westchester Avenue service roads and additional lanes on local bridges.

The New England Thruway (I-95) will be relieved of a portion of its traffic by the bridge, since many vehicles now crossing via the East River bridges and going up the Thruway to Connecticut or northern Westchester will be diverted to the new crossing. This will reduce the present number of turning movements at the Cross Westchester interchange and improve the flow of traffic. Similarly, the Hutchinson River Parkway will also benefit by diversion of some of its traffic load to the new crossing.

ESTIMATES OF TRAFFIC AND REVENUE: On the basis of the most recent estimates of traffic, about 11.8 million vehicles are expected to use the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge in its first year of operation. This volume will increase to some 16.0 million by the fifth year, and to about 23.0 million by the twentieth year after opening.

With passenger car toll rates of $1.75 and proportionally higher rates for commercial vehicles, the estimated toll revenues will increase from $21.5 million in the initial year of operation to almost $43.0 million by the twentieth year. After deducting operation expenses, the net revenues available for repayment of the bonded indebtedness are estimated to be $18.9 million in the first year, $25.7 million by the fifth year, and over $36.7 million by the twentieth year.

FINANCIAL FEASIBILITY: The net revenues of the bridge will be available to make interest and retirement payments on the revenue bonds issued to finance the project. The amount of the bonds to be issues will have to cover, in addition to the toll project costs, sufficient funds to pay interest on the bonds during the construction period (plus financing charges) and the establishment of an initial reserve fund. The interest rate attainable at the time the bonds are marketed will have a substantial effect on the total amount required. For a bridge project with a construction cost of $200 million, the required bonds to be issued would vary from approximately $254 million if an interest rate of 5% is obtained, to about $276 million at an interest rate of 7%.

A comparison was made between the net annual amounts required for interest and retirement payments for these bond issues, and the estimated yearly net revenues. It was found that he annual payments exceed the debt service requirements by a sufficient amount to provide a reasonable margin of safety, thus assuring the financial feasibility of the project.

It should be noted that the funds for the bridge project become available only by virtue of the sale of bonds that are repaid by toll revenues. These funds, therefore, are not available for other purposes.

ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF A LONG ISLAND SOUND CROSSING: The key economic benefits of the Long Island Sound crossing are summarized below as follows:

  • A wider regional market will be available to business enterprises on both sides of the Sound, thereby creating more favorable conditions for establishment of new businesses and expansion of older ones. This applies particularly to specialized enterprises serving areas broader than individual localities.

  • Employment opportunities will be broader for residents on both sides of the Sound. Individuals with special skills will have a wider field in which to locate, and there will be more opportunity to match skills with jobs. As a result, income levels will often rise as people will be more able to utilize their maximum abilities. The need to relocate families in order to gain better access to employment will be diminished.

  • Because the bridge will contribute to a healthy economic development of the region, it will have a favorable general effect on property values and therefore on the tax base. Consequently, it will tend to hold down tax rates. These favorable impacts may have been the experience of many transportation improvements.

  • Movement of goods will be an important function of the new bridge. For the first time, highway access will be available for freight movements to and from Long Island without the need to overcome New York City congestion. Freight shipments to Long Island are now charged at a premium rate. Construction of the bridge could result in a reduction in rates for Long Island shippers and receivers, with a possible favorable effect on the cost of living as well as on the costs of doing business.

Construction of a major project of the magnitude of the proposed bridge and its approach highways will provide a substantial number of jobs during the period it is under construction. Approximately 55 percent of the total cost of construction will be for labor, of which the major element will be on-site. It is estimated that approximately 6,400 man-hours of work will be required, spaced over a three-year period. This means an average of about 2,100 men working on the project, with a peak force of perhaps 3,000 workers. In addition to the labor employed directly on contract work, both on-site and off-site, there will also be employment created in the furnishing of materials, supplies and services required for the project. Secondary economic benefits also will be realized from expenditures by workers employed on the project, both in the vicinity of the bridge site and elsewhere in the region. All of this economic activity will produce substantial additional income for the region, most of it without requiring additional permanent community services.

This 2007 photo shows a scale model of the proposed bridge approach from the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135) through Oyster Bay and Bayville; the approach is marked in red. (Photo from the Queens Museum of Art exhibit "Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Road to Recreation.")

SUMMARY OF THE FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT: The following is from "Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge, Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement," developed by the MTA and NYSDOT in November 1972. The environmental impact statement mirrors the findings of the 1971 Creighton, Hamburg study.

The proposed Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge and its approach highways will result in regional growth benefits to Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties in New York, and Fairfield County in Connecticut, while having both beneficial and adverse impacts adjacent to the facility.

The facility will enhance the quality of the physical environment in the general area by reducing congestion and resulting noise and air pollution as traffic is relieved at critical points of the regional transportation network. However, the proposed facility will have certain adverse effects on the immediate physical environment, including a small unavoidable increase in ambient noise, increased automotive emissions to local areas, and slight impacts upon the natural environment and ecological systems.

The bridge will require a slight change in navigation and recreational boating patterns on Long Island Sound.

The described facility will affect a number of local communities. While disruption of these communities is not significant, the basic fabric and life styles of these communities will not be severely affected in the short term. Longer-term effects will depend on sound community planning and local land use controls

THE BATTLE OF THE BRIDGE: Initial authorization for the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge came in the Omnibus Transportation Act of 1967. Over the next six years, many groups would fight for and against the proposed bridge across Long Island Sound. Environmentalists and wealthy residents in the path of the bridge approach roads battled business, labor and transportation representatives. On both sides of the battle, politicians made their beliefs known.

Under pressure from environmentalists and affected residents, the New York State Legislature voted twice to kill the proposal, but Governor Rockefeller vetoed the Legislature's vote. Behind the scenes, the fight moved to the local front. In 1968, the Village of Rye filed a lawsuit to stop the bridge approach, while the Village of Oyster Bay donated 3,100 acres within the path of the approach to the Federal government for use as a wildlife refuge. This move prevented the state from encroaching on the land without the permission of the Federal government; the terms of the agreement held that the land would revert to the village if the bridge and its approaches were approved. By the third time the State Legislature voted to kill the proposed bridge, it had enough votes to override any potential veto.

Ultimately, it was the residents who convinced the decision makers that the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge should not be built. Betsy Anderson, a Bayville resident who wrote the following February 9, 1972 letter to
Newsday, exemplified this sentiment::

This (proposed Long Island Sound) bridge is a monster. It will tear down buildings, force people to move out of their homes, kill wildlife and destroy the land and our air. Sure, it's an easy thing for Governor Rockefeller to nod his head "yes" because he won't feel the impact, the hurt and the sadness. Bayville is a small fishing village. We are just common people enjoying the little bit we have here and cherishing the nature Bayville holds. Is that asking too much? Why then do they want to take that little bit away from us?

Two potentially fatal blows came from Congress early in 1973. First, U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff, a Democrat from Connecticut, opposed construction of the bridge, while the two Senators from New York, Jacob Javits and James Buckley, stood silent. To make sure the bridge would not be built, Senator Ribicoff proposed a bird sanctuary near the site of the proposed southern terminus in Oyster Bay. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, an amendment to Federal highway construction bill was passed that would bar the usual 90 percent Interstate grant for access roads, unless the New York and Connecticut state legislatures both approved the bridge.

On June 20, 1973, Governor Nelson Rockefeller made this statement concerning the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge:

After long and careful consideration and review of all factors concerned, I have decided to discontinue plans for the construction of the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge.

This has not been an easy decision. There are strong arguments for the bridge, and I have vigorously supported this proposal. It is part of a long-standing plan to link Long Island to the mainland and to enhance the role of the Island in the commerce and industry of the state.

However, in recent years the people of our state and the country have gradually come to adopt new values in relation to our environment and evidenced a willingness to forgo certain economic advantages to achieve these values. The Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge has become a lightning rod in this period of evolution. Therefore, after a thorough review of all the factors and after consulting with representatives of environmental, labor, business and other groups, and with individuals, I have come to the conclusion that we should cease our plans to build the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge.

Although the bridge would bring many real benefits and fill some real needs, obviously it would lead to large-scale disruption of existing patterns of life. We must continue to grow, and must continue to grow in a way that is compatible with valid environmental objectives.

Therefore, I believe we should concentrate our efforts on extending and improving our mass transit systems to better serve the needs of the people on an economical and efficient basis, while at the same time undertaking necessary highway projects throughout the state that do not involve ecological problems.

Although the original proposal was defeated, plans for a bridge across Long Island Sound continued to top the agenda among transportation officials for many years. In 1979, before a meeting organized by state and county officials in Hauppauge, New York, Robert Moses, by now a 91-year-old advisor emeritus for the MTA, repeated the need for a bridge:

Long Island needs a Sound Crossing, but where? Westchester needs a Sound Crossing, but where? Connecticut needs a Sound Crossing, but where? It was clear to us 20 years ago, and is more obvious today, that we need a Sound Crossing for 40,000 to 50,000 daily users at a location that will avoid circuitous, time-consuming, energy-wasting, totally unnecessary trips through New York City. We need immediately a bridge from Oyster Bay to Rye built from income derived from users.

This 2007 photo shows a close-up of the scale model cable-stay span on the proposed Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge (I-287). Unlike the 1965 plan that featured two single-mast towers, an updated proposal had two A-frame towers which were to support the cable stays. (Photo from the Queens Museum of Art exhibit "Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Road to Recreation.")

TIME TO RESURRECT PLANS? During the early stages of the "LITP 2000" study in the late 1990s, the NYSDOT solicited a number of ideas from the public, including resurrecting the Oyster Bay-Rye and Shoreham-New Haven crossings. (A new location, between Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park and Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Connecticut, was added to the study.)

In the next stage of the process, the Nassau-to-Westchester bridge proposal was dropped, leaving only the Suffolk-to-Connecticut proposals to be studied. According to computer models recently developed by the NYSDOT, between 3,000 and 5,000 vehicles per hour would utilize the Shoreham-New Haven Bridge during peak morning and afternoon periods.

The NYSDOT backed away from a Long Island Sound bridge alternative in the belief that it would do nothing to relieve road congestion. The high costs of environmental studies and construction, along with strident community opposition, also weighed heavily in the NYSDOT decision. The most recent "LITP 2000" plan, released in June 2000, relies greatly on a network of express bus lanes on Long Island's expressways and parkways.

Wayne Ugolik, transportation planner for the NYSDOT, summed up the agency's opinion as follows:

Every car that would go from Long Island to Connecticut would be offset by a car that came from Connecticut to Long Island. We don't see any reason to go any further because we don't see the congestion relief.

Nevertheless, support for a cross-Sound bridge remains strong. In a February 2000 poll conducted by
Newsday and News 12-Long Island, 63 percent of Long Island residents favored a bridge between Suffolk County and Connecticut. Moreover, the Long Island Association continues to be a strong supporter of a cross-Sound bridge.

The NYSDOT estimated that a bridge across Long Island Sound would cost $20 billion to $25 billion. An independent estimate (conducted for found that if built in 2000, the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge would cost $2.5 billion to construct, and an additional $2.0 billion in interest costs. On the positive side of the ledger, the bridge would bring more than $8.5 billion in toll revenue over 30 years.

THE OYSTER BAY-RYE TUNNEL? Beginning in 2000, environmental activist Alexander Saunders and engineer Dr. Martin Herrenknecht devised plans for a twin-tube tunnel between Oyster Bay and Rye, along the approximate alignment of the proposed bridge. To construct the tunnel, one or more boring machines (each costing up to $50 million) would tunnel beneath the Long Island Sound. Each machine would have a "production rate" of up to 130 feet per day. The steel-and-concrete lined tubes would be burrowed through the gravel-sand soil under the Sound.

The Oyster Bay-Rye Tunnel would consist of two 60-foot-diameter tubes, with three traffic lanes (and continuous emergency shoulders) constructed on the upper level of each of the two tubes, and two rail lines on the lower level of each of the tubes. Combined, the four rail lines would serve both commuter and freight traffic. An additional service tunnel may be constructed for maintenance and emergency usage.

Saunders' proposal has garnered the attention of environmentalists, transportation experts and regional planners. An article for a related proposal to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge with a tunnel stated the case for the project as follows:

In the current social and economic context using current technology, tunneling provides significantly more economics, safety, less intrusiveness to the municipalities affected, and less disruption to continuing traffic. Modern tunneling equipment is reliable, efficient, safe and highly economical in its use of manpower. In addition to producing the needed transportation infrastructure, tunneling yields very valuable byproducts. The gravel produced by the excavation is readily marketed and in short supply. The real property currently under pavement has great value when returned to private use, which may include residential developments, industrial parks and municipal parks. The final cost of an underground highway and rail system will be significantly less than continued maintenance and enlargement of the current surface system.

According to the Regional Plan Association (RPA), an engineering analysis would be necessary to determine appropriate highway and rail grades. The RPA had long been opposed to a Long Island Sound Bridge, but may consider the Saunders-Herrenknecht tunnel proposal upon engineering and environmental analyses.

Borrowing from tunneling breakthroughs achieved during the late 1990s in Europe, Saunders expected that the Oyster Bay-Rye Tunnel would cost $1.5 billion (not including the cost of approach highways), and be constructed within five years. He proposed that the Oyster Bay-Rye Tunnel be part of a long-range master plan to place the entire I-287 corridor - from Suffern, Rockland County to Syosset, Nassau County - in a combined road-and-rail tunnel.

NEW PLANS FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM: In 2007, a private consortium led by Polimeni Associates, a leading Long Island developer, proposed a 17-mile-long tunnel connecting the I-95 / I-287 interchange in Rye with the NY 135 / NY t25 interchange in Syosset. Estimated to cost $10 billion, the "Sound Link" would have three tubes: two vehicular tunnels each with three lanes of capacity and a service tunnel in between the vehicular tunnels. With a hypothetical opening date of 2025, the tunnel would have a base passenger car toll of $25 in each direction, but a financial analysis conducted by investment firm Bear Stearns found the project would have profitable based on 70,000 vehicles per day (AADT) and trucks comprising 20% of the traffic. The financial crisis of 2008-2009, which took down Bear Stearns, put an end to this plan.

In 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a new Oyster Bay-Rye crossing as one of three alternative routes for a new Long Island Sound crossing. After evaluating various proposals, including bridge-only, tunnel-only, and hybrid alternatives, the Oyster Bay-Rye alternative was found to provide the most traffic alternative. Cost estimates for this alternative ranged from $8.5 billion for the bridge-only alternative to $55.4 billion for a twin-tube, six-lane tunnel-only alternative. As was the case nearly half-century earlier, activists on both sides of the Sound opposed all of the new alternatives. In 2018, almost exactly 45 years after the state abandoned the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge proposal, the state once again ended discussion of any proposal, with acting NYSDOT Commissioner Paul Karas stating that the project would not be moving forward "at this time."

This artist's conception shows the proposed layout of the Cross Sound Link. There would be two tubes each carrying three lanes of I-287, with an emergency tunnel in between the vehicular tubes. (Graphic from, Polimeni Associates.)

AVOIDING THE NEW YORK CITY BOTTLENECK: The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 left Long Island with no escape routes, since all access points to New York City and the outside world were closed for two days. Now more than ever, the New York metropolitan area needs a crossing - either a bridge, a tunnel or a combination - between Oyster Bay and Rye.

All possible crossing options should be explored before a final decision is made. The descriptions of possible bridge and tunnel options are as follows:

  • BRIDGE: The proposed bridge would include a 1,500-foot-long main cable-stay span to cross the main shipping channel of Long Island Sound, just north of the Long Island shoreline. The main span would have a clearance of no less than 135 feet. Bumpers would be placed around the bridge supports to protect them against collision and ice flows. A secondary 400-foot span with a clearance of 60 feet would be placed just south of the Westchester shoreline. The bridge would have capacity for six travel lanes (two lanes in each direction), with an emergency shoulder along the entire length of the bridge.

  • BRIDGE: The proposed bridge would include a 1,500-foot-long main cable-stay span to cross the main shipping channel of Long Island Sound, just north of the Long Island shoreline. The main span would have a clearance of no less than 135 feet. Bumpers would be placed around the bridge supports to protect them against collision and ice flows. A secondary 400-foot span with a clearance of 60 feet would be placed just south of the Westchester shoreline. The bridge would have capacity for six travel lanes (two lanes in each direction), with an emergency shoulder along the entire length of the bridge.

  • TUNNEL: Using the Saunders-Herrenknecht proposal as a beginning, the tunnel would begin just north of NY 25A in Oyster Bay, requiring a 3.25-mile-long northern extension of NY 135. The 12.75-mile-long, twin-tube tunnel would carry six traffic lanes (three in each direction) and emergency shoulders in the upper deck of the 60-foot-diameter tubes. Passenger and freight rail service could be added to the lower deck of the tubes, tying into the LIRR Oyster Bay line (and possibly other lines). At the northern portal, the tunnel would end just south of I-95 in Rye, requiring a 0.5-mile-long extension of I-287. Rail connections would be made with the MTA-Metro North New Haven line, and possibly a future rail line along I-287. Once below ground, the roadways would avoid ecological sensitive wetlands. The tunnel portals would replicate the stone-arch design of the Moses parkways. Ventilation towers would take the historic architecture of the region into consideration.

To minimize potential negative impacts, no exits would be constructed north of NY 25A in Oyster Bay, or south of I-95 in Rye. Retaining walls, earthen berms and natural vegetation would be used to insulate noise from the approaches from the communities in which it will pass. To minimize air pollution, no toll plaza would be constructed. Instead, gantries capable of reading EZ-Pass transponders at high speeds would be installed. Furthermore, the left lanes in each direction may be restricted to HOV use during rush hours. Incentives such as reduced tolls could be used to promote HOV lane usage.

The Oyster Bay-Rye crossing and its approach highways should be adopted as priority projects for completion by 2030. Once completed, the bridge or tunnel would increase economic activity, reduce shipping and transportation costs, and create new employment opportunities on both sides of Long Island Sound. Congestion would be reduced not only on the Throgs Neck and Bronx-Whitestone bridges, but also on east-west arteries on Long Island and north-south arteries in Westchester County. Finally, through the issuance of bonds and toll collection, the Oyster Bay-Rye crossing would be financially successful.

WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY: From time to time, there have been discussions in the newsgroup misc.transport.road on reviving the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge. Following is a post by Douglas A. Willinger of the Takoma Park Highway Design Studio:

Rye approach: Tunnel approach, starting at the interchange of I-287 (Cross Westchester Expressway) and I-95 (New England Thruway), some 500 feet or so from the shoreline, running immediately along the south side of the Rye-Port-Chester line, beneath Port Chester Bay, emerging out of tunnel offshore onto the bridge.

The Long Island approach could employ the same basic design approach, with an off-shore bridge to a shore tunnel, possibly combined with a re-routing from the Moses' alignments, landing bridge roughly a half mile east, from waterfront industrial area near the end of the Oyster Bay LIRR branch. This would avoid the wetlands that were designated a wildlife preserve so as to thwart Moses' plans to run the highway approach along Oyster Bay's western shoreline where there are many estates. Limiting highway access within this area could also be a part of this plan. The key point shall be the conception of such a community-friendly plan.

Concurring with this opinion is Ralph Herman, a frequent contributor to misc.transport.road and

I would build the Long Island Sound Bridge (which should be named the "Theodore Roosevelt Bridge") from Rye to Oyster Bay. This bridge would take some pressure off the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges, plus would take some pressure off the highways in western Nassau County and northern Queens. This bridge would be a toll facility, but the "gaps" needed to finish the I-287 route to Jones Beach would probably be prohibitively expensive to construct.

The bridge and its approach freeways should be made part of the New York State Thruway system, with a rail line for both freight and passenger commuter service. The rail line would link with the LIRR Oyster Bay Branch and Metro North New Haven Line.

Finally, Paul Schlictman, another frequent contributor to misc.transport.road and, responds as follows:

No entrance-exit points north of NY 25A. You are putting a highway through the homes of some very rich and powerful people, but this plan seems like a good one.

SOURCES: "Master Plan for Nassau County," Nassau County Department of Public Works (1959); "Barnes Backs Ballard on New Expressway," Brooklyn World-Telegraph (7/08/1965); "Traffic, Earnings and Feasibility of the Long Island Sound Crossing," Madigan-Hyland, Incorporated (1965); Arterial Progress 1959-1965, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); "Proposed Bayville-Rye Bridge," Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board (1966); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); "Report on the Status of the Federal-Aid Highway Program," Committee on Public Works, U.S. Senate (1970); A Comprehensive Transportation Study for Proposed Bridge Crossings, Creighton, Hamburg, Incorporated (1971); "Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge, Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York State Department of Transportation (1972); Long Island Sound Crossing, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York State Department of Transportation (1972); "Governor To Cease Efforts To Build LI Sound Bridge," The New York Times (6/21/1973); "Many Groups Engaged in Long Battle of the Bridge" by John Darnton, The New York Times (6/21/1973); "Veto or No, Route 135 Extension Is in Works" by Irving Long, The Long Island Press (6/21/1973); "Statewide Master Plan for Transportation," New York State Department of Transportation (1973); The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro, Vintage Books-Random House (1974); Long Island Sound Bridge Study, New York State Department of Transportation (1979); Robert Moses: Single-Minded Genius by Joann P. Krieg, Heart of the Lakes Publishing (1989); "Pages of History: Letters to the Newsday Editor," Newsday (1998); "The Great Escape" by Tom Morris, Newsday (10/31/1999); "Highway Hopes That Faded" by Sidney C. Schaer, Newsday (11/05/1999); "A Bridge to Connecticut? 63% Say Yes" by Thomas Frank, Newsday (2/28/2000); "The Bridge That Almost Was" by Ray Ingersoll, Asharoken News (May-June 2000); "To Get There from Here, Wait 20 Years" by Vivian S. Toy, The New York Times (6/25/2000); "The Tappan Tunnel" by John H. Vargo, Boating on the Hudson (October 2000); "A Tunnel for the Sound? Someone Digs This Idea" by John Valenti, Newsday (1/21/2001); "Sound Tunnel Would Link Rye, Long Island" by Greg Clary, The Journal-News (11/21/2007); "Toll Tunnel Under Long Island Sound Proposed" by Peter Samuel, Toll Roads News (11/26/2007); "For a Tunnel To Go 16 Miles, No Light Yet" by Peter Applebome, The New York Times (11/29/2007); "NIMBYs Beware, It's About More Than Tunnel Vision" by Alfonse D'Amato, Long Island Business News (12/07/2007); Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York by Hilary Ballon and Kenneth T. Jackson, Queens Museum of Art-W.W. Norton and Company (2007); "Developer: Study Could Sink Long Island Tunnel" by Susana Enriquez, Newsday (1/24/2008); "Cuomo Administration Drops Idea for Bridge-Tunnel Crossing LI Sound" by Yancey Roy, Newsday (6/29/2018); Dave Block; Daniel T. Dey; Stephane Dumas; Ralph Herman; Nick Klissas; Scott Kozel; Alexander Saunders; Paul Schlictman; Jim Wade; Douglas A. Willinger.

  • I-287 and NY 135 shields by Ralph Herman.
  • Sound Link shield by Cross Sound Link / Polimeni Associates.
  • HOV lane and tunnel signs by C.C. Slater.



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