17/05 – Restore the George

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Remarks to the Port Authority and North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority

Today I would take issue with Port Authority’s plans for the GWB paths and the omission of non-motorized GWB travel from its Trans-Hudson Commuting Capacity Study.

In February, CFO Libby McCarthy put the cost of “Restore the George” bike and ped improvements at $118 million. This was a surprise.[1]

In June, Director Foye put the job at $50 million, including anti-suicide barriers, consistent with longstanding Agency estimates of $20 million for the paths themselves.[2] [3] [4]

More troubling than the Agency’s willingness to adjust costs is it’s willingness to mask the deficiencies of a facility that will expose thousands of travelers per day to physical injury.

Compare the rendering of the proposed facility with what’s there now.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 8.05.07 PMCurrent South Path (left). Artist’s rendering of North Path (right). Images PANYNJ.

  • The redone path (right) looks considerably wider than the current facility (left), but they both measure 7 foot between the cables.
  • To give the illusion of safety, cyclists are shown riding outside the path. If they maintain their lines, they’ll crash into the cables.
  • It’s a warm, sunny day and only five cyclists are depicted. There should be 30 times that, and of widely varying speed, skill and configuration – kids on BMXs, cruisers, racing wheelchairs, skateboarders, and runners who won’t run with pedestrians.[5] [6]

Even experienced cyclists crash on the bridge. Imagine newbies negotiating 70 neckdowns with faster cyclists converging from both directions.[7]

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 12.54.19 PMNYC entrance to the South Path. Sidewalks are of comparable width to the paths.

Unless it reconsiders its plans, the Port will spend $2 billion dollars to maintain the flow of cars and trucks across the George, but will restore the paths with less capacity then it had in 1931.[8]  And historic views of Manhattan and the Palisades and will be blocked forever.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

170 organizations, businesses and electeds are now calling for wider GWB paths, including NY City Deputy Mayor (and former PA Executive Director) Anthony Shorris, and fifteen members of the NYS legislature who’ve asked Governor Cuomo to include the GWB in any program to expand the state’s cycling infrastructure.[9] [10] [11]

Thank you.

Neile Weissman, 2017


[1] “Substantial improvements made under the current scope to sidewalks for enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access represent an investment of $118 million.”, 2/16/17 Board Meeting, CFO McCarthy’s remarks start 1:44:35, PANYNJ Videos, http://tinyurl.com/znlnpjq

[2] “Improvements to the paths will cost up to $50 million, including anti-suicide barriers.”, 6/30/16 Board Meeting, Director Foye’s GWB remarks start 12:01, PANYNJ Videos, http://tinyurl.com/znlnpjq

[3] “The anti-suicide barriers will cost $37 million to $47 million.” – PA Chief Structural Engineer Bernie Yostpille, NorthJersey.com, 7/30/15, http://tinyurl.com/h7vw2pl

[4] “$20 million worth of improvements is possible at present.  $80 million?  Out of the question, says Bill (Young, PANYNJ Client Manager).”, Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives, 2/22/2013

[5] If current growth of bike travel across the GWB of 10.4% per year persists, we’ll see 9034 cyclists per day during peak use by 2024 or 1069 users per hour (60 minutes). At 10 miles per hour, it takes six minutes to cross the one mile GWB, so a representative depiction of use across the main span should include 178 users (1/6 of 1069),. Also see Capacity and Demand, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/jpcfphq

[6] ADA guidelines do not accommodate handcycles or racing wheelchairs AASHTO does.

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 5.43.19 PM.pngHandcyclist in Central Park. Wheelchair racers in NYC Marathon. Image NY Roadrunners.

[7] Carol Waaser’s remarks to the PA, 4/27/2017, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/n5q2kh2

[8] Shielding added after 9/11, narrowed the space between the suspender cables from 8 feet down to 6.75 feet.

[9] Supporters, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/j2nbfj2

[10] “We would encourage the Port to continue to think aggressively about planning for adequate bike facilities in all of its projects. Specifically, about the long-term need for additional capacity on the George Washington crossing.”, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris, Comments to the Port Authority on its 2017-2026 Capital Plan, P. 5, http://tinyurl.com/lq58upc

[11] “Unless the PA widens the paths during the reconstruction, the GWB will cease to function as a cycling facility. That will precipitate a net decline in regional cycle tourism, regardless of facilities on the new Tappan Zee and lower sections of the Empire State Trail.” – letter to Governor Cuomo commenting on 2017-2018 Capital Budgethttp://tinyurl.com/mxaqjzx