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Cuomo issues REOI for Long Island Sound tunnel

After announcing his plan to pursue a Long Island Sound tunnel at this year’s state of the state address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has taken more steps to make the idea come to fruition by soliciting private proposals.

On Jan. 26, the state Department of Transportation, DOT, issued a request for expressions of interest, REOI, seeking input from private investors on engineering, environmental, operations and financial considerations for a future proposal.

On Jan. 26, the New York State Department of Transportation issued an official request for expressions of interest to solicit ideas from private investors on constructing a bridge or tunnel from Westchester County to Long Island. Photo courtesy NYSDOT

An REOI is used to assess interest in a project and to solicit ideas and information from interested parties.

“Improving and expanding our transportation infrastructure is essential to moving New York forward,” Cuomo said. “We are taking another step to advance an ambitious project that would reduce traffic on the impossibly congested Long Island Expressway, improve connectivity, and help ensure the region’s future economic competitiveness.”

The REOI comes just after the release of an 87-page document in January 2018 highlighting how much it would cost to construct the bridge or tunnel and how much revenue it would generate in tolls per year. According to the DOT’s study, an 18-mile tunnel connecting Westchester County and Long Island could cost approximately between $31.5 billion and $55.4 billion, and could potentially produce $500 million in tolls per year.

In 2016, Cuomo secured $5 million for the DOT to test the plan’s feasibility. Cuomo said earlier this month that the construction of a tunnel is “feasible” and would help alleviate the amount of traffic coming from Long Island.

Unlike in previous statements, Cuomo’s announcement last Friday does not mention any link to Connecticut, only to Westchester from Long Island.

The DOT’s study proposes connecting either the city of Rye or the village of Port Chester to the town of Oyster Bay in Long Island, among other ideas.

However, city officials and residents have always opposed any plan to build a tunnel to Rye as the idea has emerged several times since the 1930s. Master builder Robert Moses and former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, pursued the idea the 1960s, but it fell by the wayside.

After facing significant opposition from both local and state-elected officials in Westchester and Long Island, Rockefeller’s proposed Rye-Oyster Bay bridge never transpired.

As of press time, Gov. Cuomo’s office has said REOIs are due no later than April 2, 2018.

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