Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Sound Tunnel in the Times

Peter Appelbome of the Times writes about the Long Island Sound tunnel today and, as you’d expect from the Times as compared to the local papers, raises good points and says it better:

The promoters say it would save time, and with up to 80,000 cars not stuck idling in gridlocked traffic, it would reduce fuel consumption by more than 24 million gallons a year and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 235 tons per day. It’s safe to assume that those numbers will not go unscrubbed. And there’s always the rejoinder that if the ride is that simple, maybe it will simply produce more cars and more pollution. …

The review process should ask that and more — nuts and bolts ones on the impact of the project on existing roads and highways and big picture ones about whether it’s needed (why not more ferries?), whether the price is right ($25 tolls?) and whether an all-auto project of this magnitude makes any sense. Don’t expect it to happen without a rail component as well….

Here are two other issues. The first is whether the civic technology for killing projects is so much more refined than the technology for building them that you can’t attempt a project like this anywhere near high-dollar neighborhoods in the Northeast.
The second is whether the cooperation between city and suburb is so flaccid that there just isn’t the political will to get this done, whatever its merits.

If it’s a lousy idea, it’s hopeless. If it actually makes sense, economically and environmentally, the question is whether the handful of people who really matter in Manhattan, Albany, Nassau and White Plains think this is worth investing political capital on.

The early reaction will be worth watching. Either this dies a quick death or we’re at the beginning of a process that will make the seemingly endless rebuilding of the Tappan Zee Bridge look like an impulse purchase at the mall.



Blogger Sam said...

Ahh, can I put on my transportation conformity hat? If the tunnel project ends up being considered for the state and regional travel plans, it must pass the "build-no build" test. That means for ozone precursors and PM-2.5, one would have to model emissions with and without the tunnel to ensure that emissions didn't GO UP.

The modus operandi appears to be that the tunnel would simply replace folks taking bridges and a more circuitous route. But that's not how it works, since any transportation facility has a certain "induced" growth when constructed, one that can create extra "capacity."

Over the last 12 years the transportation conformity rules have been watered down (funny how Bush Senior implemented it, Bush Junior disabled part of it). But it's still a powerful tool. I'm sure the engineers at Hatch-Mott McDonald are working on it, although they like the marine construction side much better. -sam

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Came across this link to the tunnel project web site in a recent Vision Long Island newsletter.

I think Sam got to the crux of the matter with "induced growth" of traffic.

With so little info available at this time, it's hard to get too worked up about the project one way or the other. Some of my random thoughts are:

AADT is average annual daily traffic and by all definitions I've seen means travel both ways. It means everything from 30k commuters going back and forth to 60k one-way trips. Are there 30k vehicles going from LI through Rye each day or is it a projection for 2025?

At $25/trip (no discount) and 60k crossings per day for 365 days, that's $500M per year. Does the even pay the debt service on $10 billion? How much more will commercial vehicles have to pay?

Where are they going to dump the material from the tunnels? It's 500 million cubic feet or 18.4 million cubic yards of rock and soil. If they used it as fill, 100ft of it would cover 116 acres.

If half the borings come out of the LI tunnel, how are they going to move 9.2 million cubic yards? At 30 cubic yards per load, that's 300,000 truck trips.

Have 55-ft diameter tunnels been bored before? I haven't found any that are that big. The tubes all seem to be less than 40ft in diameter.

24 million gallons of gasoline per year saved seems reasonable based on a trip that's 30 miles shorter. Is it still 24 million gallons in 2025 when we're all driving hybrids or electric cars that get 100mpg?

How much of the so-called green benefit from this project gets eaten by the CO2 emissions associated with building it? Cement is responsible for GHG and this project will take a lot of concrete. The construction equipment will be burning diesel (or maybe CNG or LNG).

If Sam is right and it induces more traffic, that would reduce or even wipe out the so-called green benefits, particularly if there is no rail component.

I suppose it will be all hashed out in the EIS that gets published in ten years, if at all.

6:23 PM  

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