By law, the environmental review for every major capital project has to include a “no build” alternative, so that the consequences of building the thing are seriously compared to the consequences of not building it. Sometimes the no-build option wins out, as with Westway and the state’s plans to widen the Major Deegan Expressway in 2009. Most of the time, unsurprisingly, the no-build option is a sham to satisfy the formal requirements. Some of those times, though, the projections for the no-build scenario are so divorced from reality that it borders on fraud.
The no build alternative advanced to satisfy the requirements for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement is really not an alternative at all. “The No Build Alternative would involve the continued operation of the existing seven-lane bridge with ongoing maintenance to keep the bridge in a state of good repair,” says the Scoping Packet. It envisions the state raising tolls and taxes to maintain an increasingly deteriorating bridge, while new residents pour into Rockland. These residents would be sitting in traffic for hours each day, with traffic backed up to Coxsackie and forlorn employers in Westchester staring at thousands of empty cubicles.
As I’ve written before, these projections are bullshit. It’s already a pain in the ass to drive across the bridge, and people have responded by taking jobs in the city or by simply not moving to Rockland, Orange and Bergen. Employers have responded by hiring people who live east of the river, or by relocating to the city.