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 favor walking, bicycling and mass transit over cars, and encourage others to do the same.

We are strongly opposed to the proposed $370 million dollar route 9-A reconstruction. We doubt the assumptions the State DoT has used in justifying this proposal, and we the question the worth of a draft environmental impact statement that is so limited in both the scope of uses it considers, and the area it covers. Though billed as a beautification and safety project, the State DoT's proposal is actually an ill-considered and outrageously expensive boondoggle that will add to road capacity and increase the number of vehicles and pollution in lower Manhattan.

We add our voice to those crying out for the route 9-A money to be spent on the economic backbone of our city- public transportation. Indeed, we question the need for a West Side Highway of any kind.

In the Wizard of Oz Dorothy clicked her heels together and chanted three times "There's no place like home." At seems at State DoT they rub their big Federal check and chant " We want to build highways, we want to build highways, we want to build highways."

Well, we at Transportation Alternative don't. We encourage the immediate creation of more green space and a continous bike lane. But we believe a stake should be driven through the heart of this bloated and destructive highway monster, once and for all.

Why are we spending scarce public resources to ease the plight of motorists who have made the decision to drive to work and thus ruin our neighborhoods, pollute our air, spend our money, while mass transit is available? Over 90% of 9-A use is by private cars. Why should we continue to pay for, to subsidize, these bad things?

These are our specific objections.

1. The EIS process assumes that an extensive rebuild is valid and necessary, and that business as usual is O.K. DoT seems unaware that New York City is hurtling headlong into Clean Air Act sanctions. The Draft EIS does not consider numerous non-highway alternatives like for example a 4 lane freight way limited to goods carrying trucks, or a light rail system. Or, as Gene Russianoff pointed out, spending less, and giving the bulk of the money to public transit.

2. The EIS also includes infrastructure to support future development- sewage, waste water etc. State DoT officials have said that these infrastructure improvements are a large share of the huge sums proposed. The infrastructure expenditures are a totally separate political, economic, and environmental issue and should be considered in a separate forum, EIS, and by a separate agency. Why is State DoT masterminding sewage projects in New York City?

3. The State DoT claims that the highway will have minimal traffic effects, even though they propose increasing Southbound capacity from two lanes to three, a fifty percent jump. This increase in capacity is allowed under the Clean Air Act, only if compensating traffic reduction measures are undertaken in a comprehensive "Congestion Systems Management Plan." What are these off setting measures?

Ultimately, we question why the State DoT is making decisions about the use of this land, when their bureaucratic mandate is to build and maintain highways. A proper forum might be the Department of City Planning, or other agencies concerned with intelligent planning and economic development.

We ask the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to carefully examine the need for this project, and the ability of the NY State DoT to objectively examine non-automobile alternatives. NY DoT equates happy motoring with progress. The options they favor revolve around accommodating ever increasing auto use, and make a mockery of efforts to improve public transit, reduce air pollution, and reduce the avalanche 2 million cars that is smothering our city. We implore the FHWA to live up to the spirit of both the Clean Air Act, and ISTEA, in which Congress calls strongly for encouraging alternatives to the automobile, by giving this money to public transit, instead of furthering the degradation of this great city.

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