Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Route 9-A Reconstruction

Good afternoon. My name is John Kaehny. I represent Transportation Alternatives, a group of 2,500 New Yorkers who are striving to make our city more livable by improving walking, cycling and mass transit and reducing dependence on the automobile.

Many of us are tired of fighting the West Side Highway. We want the it fixed, we want our riverside park, our walking and cycling path, and more and safer pedestrian crossings. But tired and impatient as we are, we don't want more cars, and that is exactly what we will get if the Enhanced Basic Reconstruction plan is built.

Transportation Alternatives strongly opposes the Enhanced Basic Reconstruction plan and the other more expensive and destructive options proposed for rebuilding route 9-A. Though we recognize the need to improve safety and road conditions on 9-A , we are deeply distressed by the increase in automobile traffic the Enhanced Basic Reconstruction will cause in Manhattan.

In a time of great scarcity and need, we question why $370 million dollars, and 6 years of construction delays, should be spent accommodating ever more automobiles in a city already groaning and choking under the weight of millions of motor vehicles. It is unfortunate that all of the collective genius and imagination focused on the Hudson River waterfront could find nothing better to do with the giant sum of $ 370 million than build a new and more capacious highway.

As an alternative we urge the State Department of Transportation to adopt a rebuilding plan that will not increase car carrying capacity on 9A, but will maintain amenities like the proposed walking and cycling lane and improved pedestrian crossings. Such a proposal is easily achievable, and will increase the safety of pedestrians and motorists while saving money. Savings should be used to reduce congestion and air pollution by investing more in mass transit.

Enhanced Basic = More traffic in Manhattan
Make no mistake, if the Enhanced Basic Reconstruction plan is adopted,
9-A will carry significantly more cars. The 9-A projects own Supplementary Draft Environmental Impact Statement ( SDEIS) acknowledges that peak hour roadway volume could increase by over 20%, or about 1000 cars an hour (pg. 3-14 SDEIS). In today's auto-saturated New York City, the rush period lasts virtually all day. (DEIS fig. 8-5) Thus, an expanded 9A could be expected to carry substantially more traffic from about 8 AM to 8 PM. Traffic that will flow through and around West Side neighborhoods.

State Department of Transportation officials do not dispute that the Enhanced Basic plan will substantially increase 9A's car carrying capacity. Indeed, they think increased capacity is a good thing. The DOT says that increasing 9A's capacity will draw cars off of West Side Avenues and relieve side street congestion. They also say that unlike other road expansions, which create new traffic, 9A is unique. It is on an island, Manhattan, whose bridges, tunnels and other entrances are so jammed that only a limited number of cars can make it in. Thus, they claim 9A won't add to overall traffic, but only redistribute existing traffic.

This is nonsense. The Expanded Basic Plan will bring more cars onto Manhattan streets. The State DoT's computer model for 9A has a crucial flaw. It does not
make any provisions for those people who don't drive much now, but who might decide to drive more because of more space on 9A or an adjacent avenue- a phenomena called "induced demand."

While total traffic into Manhattan below 60th Street is somewhat limited by crowded bridges and tunnels, automobile trips within Manhattan are not. Indeed, everyday about 441,000 vehicle trips are taken from one part of Manhattan to another. These internal to internal trips are the actually the largest single type of trip- 33% of the 24 hour total. (DEIS 8-10) Thus, regardless of whether the bridges and tunnels to Manhattan are saturated during the peak hour, more space on either 9A or adjacent avenues is likely to cause or "induce" more automobile trips. More "induced" car trips are especially likely during non-peak hours when the reduction in driving delay is larger, and the thus the incentive to drive is higher. No matter how you slice it, the Enhanced Basic Plan will mean more cars, taking more trips during more hours of the day.

EPA Says Possible Short Term Gain Vs. Definite Long-term Increase in Traffic, and Air Pollution
The State's assumption that the Enhanced Basic plan will reduce air pollution collapses if the likely increase in west side traffic volume and vehicle miles traveled are factored in. Though in the short term- a period of maybe a year or so- the Enhanced Basic Plan may reduce congestion and pollution, in the long term it will mean more cars and pollution. Indeed, the whole process by which 9A's vehicle carrying capacity is to be increased despite being in a severe air pollution non-attainment zone seems to flaunt the intent and letter of the Clean Air Act, and to make a mockery of regional attempts to reduce vehicle miles traveled.

The Environmental Protection Agency has clearly stated that traffic flow improvement projects, like 9A , can have a "short term beneficial impact." But that in " severe ozone non attainment areas," like NYC, these short term improvements can have long range detrimental impacts, and work against programs to reduce single occupancy vehicle use." This is another way of saying that more road capacity leads to more car traffic.

Supporters of the Enhanced Basic Plan are quick to point out that more crosswalks will be added, and a new bike and pedestrian lane added on the newly freed up 10 foot wide swath of land on the roadways Western edge. These are good things, but a new computerized signal system being installed by the city DOT will improve pedestrian and traffic flow, and allow more crosswalks to be added regardless of whether the Enhanced Basic plan is adopted. Indeed, State DOT officials have admitted that South bound left turns could be reduced and crosswalks increased under the No-Build plan.

Our conclusion is that the Enhanced Basic plan will bring more car traffic to the already suffering West side of Manhattan, won't provide any amenities beyond what can be added to the No-Build plan, and will cost $370 million, and 6 and a half years. The equation is simple: we already have too many cars, this project will spend precious dollars which could be spent on transit while adding more cars. We propose instead that the No-Build plan with additional pedestrian crosswalks, and no net gain in roadway capacity, be built, and that savings go towards improving mass transit.

Testimony Old URL
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