Governor Andrew M. Cuomo wants to spend $5 million on a study to see if building a tunnel across the Long Island Sound to connect Long Island with either Westchester or Connecticut would be financially and practically feasible, saying it has the potential to allow commuters from the island to bypass Manhattan. It’s the latest development for an idea with a history spanning nearly eight decades.
Most recently, the Suffolk County Master Plan adopted in August called for exploring a bridge or tunnel across the Long Island Sound to Connecticut or Westchester County.
This is not the first time, Cuomo rekindled discussion on Tuesday on the possibility of building a tunnel that has lingered for decades, dating back to the days of Robert Moses and then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in the 1960s. An array of proposals have never gotten off the ground.
“I want to do a really thorough feasibility study,” Cuomo said at an event on Long Island. “I think we can build a tunnel from Long Island to either the Bronx, Westchester or Connecticut. It will shave hours and hours from a commutation standpoint.”
When questioned by a reporter about whether a tunnel is a “pipe dream,” Cuomo said the state has to “think bold.”
“Would you say that FDR was a pipe dream? Would you say Robert Moses was a pipe dream?” Cuomo asked. “Was the Verrazano (bridge) a pipe dream? Was the George Washington (Bridge) a pipe dream? Was the (Long Island Expressway) a pipe dream? Was the Empire State Building a pipe dream? Was the Freedom Tower a pipe dream?”
He continued: “We have to think bold. We have to think big. We can do it. We are New Yorkers — there’s nothing we can’t do.”
Whether by bridge or tunnel, the idea to connect Long Island to Westchester or points further north has been around for decades. The idea was championed at various times by Governor Nelson Rockefeller and city planner Robert Moses. The idea even was a plot point in season two of the Netflix hit House of Cards. The most recent proposal, from 2008, called for a 16-mile tunnel to be built from Oyster Bay to Rye.
The project would have created the longest highway tunnel in the world and cost an estimated $10 billion. Developer Vincent Polimeni—who died in 2013—wanted to privately fund the construction and recoup costs through charging drivers $25 each way and selling advertising in the tunnel.
The funding for the study would have to be approved by state lawmakers, who return to the state Capitol to begin their annual legislative session Wednesday.
Some key Republican senators weren’t on board Tuesday with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal for a $1 billion infrastructure project that would boost rail and air travel on Long Island.
“They are non-starters,” said Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), a veteran in the Senate’s Republican majority. “I would have to assess his plan to see what has changed to put this back into play.”
Cuomo also says he’s thinking big on infrastructure projects. He’s also proposing building a third track for the Long Island Railroad, and better public transit access to the airports
Cuomo said he will include the proposal in his state budget plan, which he will formally unveil Jan. 13.