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Public Asked for Ideas on Bronx's Transportation Future

By Jeanmarie Evelly | October 23, 2012 7:35pm

THE BRONX — Nearly $1 trillion in federal transportation funding is expected to flow into New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley over the next two decades — and those in charge of figuring out how to spend it are turning to the public for suggestions.

Every four years, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) has to come up with a long-term plan for the region’s transportation-related investments in order to qualify for federal funding. The plan serves as a 25-year blueprint and guideline for how government transit money is used in the area.

The Council held an open house at the Bronx Museum of the Arts last week to get public feedback for the plan, which encompasses nearly every mode of transportation, be it walking, bicycling, driving, public transit or freight travel. The suggestions the council receives during the sessions, which were held in every borough and in counties on Long Island and the Hudson Valley, will be used to shape the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, to be released this spring.

“We’re asking people, what do you want to see, what do you want more of, what do you want less of?” said Lisa Daglian, NYMTC’s public information officer. “Everything gets considered.”

A handful of Bronx groups and representatives for elected officials were on hand at last week’s hearing to offer their suggestions. Linda Cox, director of the Bronx River Alliance, said they hope to see funding come through for the completion of the Bronx River Greenway, a network of pedestrian paths connecting a number of waterfront parks along the Bronx River.

There are still gaps in the Greenway plan, she said, making it difficult in some areas for pedestrians to access the water and their local parks.

“It’s so cut up by highways,” Cox said.

Sam Goodman, urban planner for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., said he was there to advocate for the expansion of Metro-North service to the Bronx, a plan that's currently being explored by the MTA.

If implemented, it would create a new train line on existing Amtrak railroad tracks that run from Penn Station through the East Bronx into Westchester and Connecticut. Train stations are being proposed for locations in Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City. 

The idea has been around for years, Goodman said, and has been shelved before.

"[We're] making certain that whatever happens, this proposal does not fall into the abyss," he said. "We have to make sure it happens."

Gerry Bogacz, planning group director for the NYMTC, said the window for new transportation funding is small, since about 95 percent of money coming into the region goes toward maintaining current infrastructure.

Still, the council takes every suggestion to heart. Even if some ideas don't make the 2040 Plan, they get directed to the council's member agencies — which include the MTA, the city's Planning Commission and the Department of Transportation.

"We can't guarantee that everything we hear will be drafted," he said. "But we can guarantee everything will be considered."

The NYMTC will be accepting comments from the public online, on Facebook and on Twitter until the end of October. For more on how to submit ideas, visit its community outreach page here.