The Long Island Sound link is a proposed bridge or tunnel that would link Long Island, New York, to Westchester County or Connecticut, across Long Island Sound east of the Throgs Neck Bridge. The project has been studied and debated for over eighty years. The most recent proposal is a tunnel between Rye, New York on the mainland and Oyster Bay on the island. It was announced in June 2018 that the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) was not moving ahead with the tunnel. Feasibility studies for both bridges and tunnels have been conducted for numerous entry points, as listed in the chart below.
Long Island is already connected directly via tunnels and bridges to Staten Island, to Manhattan and to the Bronx; however, these connections require passing through highly congested parts of the New York Metropolitan Area. People who wish to drive from Long Island to New York state's mainland or to any part of New England have no better option than to cross the Throgs Neck Bridge or the Bronx–Whitestone Bridge, which are located on the northwestern corner of Long Island connecting the New York City boroughs of Queens and the Bronx.
Ferry service between Connecticut and Long Island is available year-round; the drawback is that the ferryboats are slow-moving. Crossing Long Island Sound using the vessels takes so much time that if a traveler is going somewhere in western Connecticut, it can be more time-effective to drive through the City rather than use the Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, Connecticut ferry, even from points farther east than Port Jefferson, the town from which the ferry originates.
Private companies operate the automobile ferries between Port Jefferson—on central Long Island—and Bridgeport, Connecticut, and between Orient Point, much further east on Long Island, and New London, Connecticut.
Arguments in support of a fixed crossing over Long Island Sound focus on increased accessibility to Long Island and reduced travel times between Long Island and the mainland. Additionally, proponents of a fixed crossing argue that Long Island's vulnerability to hurricanes necessitates a bridge across Long Island Sound to facilitate a mass evacuation from an approaching storm, as the two ferries and existing bridges in New York City lack the capacity to handle the evacuation of millions of Long Island residents in advance of a hurricane. Opponents of such a crossing argue that the cost of such a bridge or tunnel would be large and it would be likely to have adverse environmental impacts. Finally, the bulk of the opposition to a fixed crossing over Long Island Sound is from Connecticut, where it is widely viewed that construction of such a crossing would come at great expense while providing little-to-no benefit for Connecticut residents. If built, a span across the widest portion of the Sound between New Haven and Shoreham would be approximately 22 to 25 miles (35 to 40 km) in length, possibly making it one of the longest bridges in the world.
Several routes have been proposed:
- A bridge connecting Mamaroneck in Westchester County, New York, with Sands Point on Long Island. This bridge would lead to a possible spur of the Bronx-White Plains Expressway onto Long Island via the unbuilt Western Nassau Expressway in Nassau County.
- A bridge or tunnel connecting Rye in Westchester County with Oyster Bay on Long Island. This would be extend Interstate 287 onto Long Island via the existing Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway in Nassau County.
- An alternative bridge connecting Rye to the city of Glen Cove on Long Island. This bridge would have connected to the Glen Cove Arterial Highway on Long Island.
- A bridge connecting Asharoken, New York, to either Stamford or Norwalk, Connecticut. This bridge would have connected to the unbuilt Babylon-Northport Expressway in western Suffolk County. In Norwalk, it would have led to the already upgraded U.S. Route 7, while in Stamford, it would likely have connected to the unbuilt Pound Ridge-Stamford Expressway, and lead back into New York.
- A bridge and possible dam connecting Poquott, New York, to Bridgeport, Connecticut. This bridge would have connected the unbuilt Suffolk CR 110 (A.O. Smith Turnpike) to CT 8/25, and served as a direct replacement of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry.
- A bridge connecting either New Haven or East Haven, Connecticut, with Shoreham, New York, on Long Island. This bridge would be an extension of Interstate 91 which would continue through Long Island via the already existing William Floyd Parkway.
- A bridge connecting Riverhead, New York, with Guilford, Connecticut. This bridge would have connected at an alternate extension of Interstate 495 to Exit 59 on the Connecticut Turnpike.
- A bridge connecting Old Saybrook, Connecticut, with East Marion, New York. This bridge would have connected the east end of the Long Island Expressway with CT 9 near Interstate 95 in Connecticut.
- A causeway and bridge connecting Orient, New York, with Rhode Island along a series of islands between the North Fork of Long Island and an eastern terminus at Interstate 95 in Rhode Island. This proposal pre-dates the automobile and was originally planned by the Long Island Rail Road in the 19th century.
All nine ideas were discussed in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, but all were canceled. Some were reconsidered during the 1990s, but the New York State Department of Transportation backed away from the idea in belief that it would not relieve congestion.
In 1957, a plan for a bridge to Westchester County across Long Island Sound was first proposed by Charles H. Sells, a former commissioner for the New York State Department of Public Works. His proposal for the Oyster Bay – Rye Bridge, along with the eastern Orient Point – Watch Hill Bridge, were two proposed bridge routes off Long Island. Sells, however, suggested that the bridges would not be constructed until Long Island's traffic and commuting began to increase.
In seven years, Long Island underwent the transformation that Sells had expected, and the east–west arterials between Long Island and New York City, such as the Northern State Parkway and the Long Island Expressway, were congested with commuters. Motorists bound for New England or upstate regions of New York had to take the Throgs Neck Bridge or the Bronx–Whitestone Bridge, both bridges already reaching their designed capacities. Robert Moses, chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, worked with the Department of Public Works to commission a $150,000 study in 1964 by the firm Madigan-Hyland to study the feasibility of a bridge across the sound.
Moses revealed the results of the study to the Nassau and Suffolk Regional Planning Board in February 1966. The Oyster Bay – Rye Bridge (originally the Bayville – Rye Bridge) was proposed to complete the Interstate 287 beltway around the New York Metropolitan Area. This was to be done by constructing a 6.1-mile-long (9.8 km) cable-stayed suspension bridge from the Cross Westchester Expressway (I-287) in Rye to the Seaford – Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135) in Nassau County. The proposed bridge was to cost $150 million (1966 USD) and had the support of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and many officials on Long Island.
On March 1, 1968, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority merged with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and Moses was demoted from chairman. He was given a lower position only because he would have a leading role in construction of the bridge. A number of excuses for delaying construction of the bridge were coming from the governor's offices. In 1969, the office said that the bond market, which would help finance the bridge, was too soft. The next year, there was a gubernatorial election for Rockefeller, and with the affected communities up in arms against him, he did not want to be put on the spot while running for re-election as governor.
In 1971, financial problems resurfaced on the proposed bridge and delayed it yet another year. The following year, the campaign for the Republican-controlled legislature in New York and governor were yet another reason to delay construction. With each delay, Moses kept assuring that the bridge would begin construction the next year.
In 1970, Governor Rockefeller ordered another feasibility study, costing about $160,000. That same year, new federal laws that dealt with the environment required a new Environmental Impact Statement for the highway, this time for the approaches as well.
Oyster Bay to Rye Bridge
With the mainline construction of the Seaford – Oyster Bay Expressway completed, Moses turned his eyes back onto an extension of the freeway and onto a bridge across the Long Island Sound into Westchester County (in the city of Rye). The idea, produced by Moses, was to extend the freeway northward past its current terminus, and along its previously proposed right-of-way past NY 106. Based on the Nassau County Department of Public Works Master Plan of 1959, the expressway would follow West Shore Road and Lundlum Avenue through Oyster Bay to Bayville, where it would connect to the new crossing.
In November 1972, Moses, the recently created New York State Department of Transportation, and the MTA submitted the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the bridge. The statement specified that the project was to include the approaches to the bridge (I-287 and NY 135) and be a 16.5-mile (26.6 km) project, as that was the distance from the interchange of I-287 and I-95 in Rye to the interchange of NY 135 and NY 25 in Syosset. The statement also explained how the highway would become an extended part of I-287. The bridge was to be constructed with four lanes, about 135 feet (41 m) above the sound at maximum clearances and 55 feet (17 m) on the minimum clearances. There would be 1,200 feet (370 m) of a center between the two towers along the cable span. These minimums reported by the two authorities and Moses were equal to those of the bridges crossing the East River in New York City. The main span would have a median divider separating the directional lanes, along with a girder box to allow for smooth passing.
In Westchester County, there were four proposed alternatives to the approach of the bridge. The first three proposals, designated W-1, W-2, and W-3, would use the undeveloped area around Playland Park in Rye for the approach. Proposals W-1 and W-2 would use Kirby Lane and Forest Avenue and be on a low-viaduct structure. Proposal W-3 would follow a narrow piece of land between Kirby Pond and the water between Mansuring Island. W-4 was to go through Port Chester Harbor and head across the Sound near North Mansuring Island. The approaches were to have retaining walls, side slopes, and screening which were to help blend in with the area and reduce the number of properties seized.
Across the Sound in Nassau County, three alternatives were considered for the bridge approach. The first, designated N-1, went from Oak Neck Point southward to an underpass of Bayville Avenue and into a deep cut of about 40 feet (12 m) near Mill Neck Creek. The cuts were to be built so they would be hidden from local properties. From there it would follow West Shore Road into Oyster Bay and utilize NY 106 to get onto the expressway extension. The second alternative, designated N-2, utilized most of N-1's route except for a cut through Mill Neck and onto a viaduct about 2,000 feet (610 m) long with varying clearances. After Mill Neck, it would follow the alignment of proposal N-1. N-3 was significantly different from the other two proposed and would use a longer bridge over the Sound, touching down in Ferry Beach rather than Bayville. The route would then pass to the east of the business district in Bayville and cross over the Mill Neck Creek on a viaduct with a 30 feet (9.1 m) clearance. Alternatives N-1 and N-2 were a bit more than 4 miles (6 km) long, and alternative N-3 was a little more than 3 miles (5 km) long.
On the Nassau side, full cloverleaf interchanges would have been built at NY 106 and NY 25A (North Hempstead Turnpike), and ramps to and from Bayville Avenue were proposed to be used for southbound traffic. This would allow local residents to use the approach route but not have to use local roads in the process. The total costs for the entire project were $200 million for the bridge itself and $52–72 million on the approaches, depending on which route was selected. Another $25 million would have gone toward the completion of NY 135 between NY 25 (the Jericho Turnpike) and NY 106.
It was believed that the bridge would have positive effects on both traffic and the local economy, as I-95 (the New England Thruway) would lose some of its congestion as traffic would be diverted onto the new bridge from Long Island rather than through New York City and on the East River bridges. This would also help the traffic flow from I-95 onto the Cross Westchester and raise the number of turning movements in the area. Similarly, the Hutchinson River Parkway would benefit from the diversion of traffic onto the bridge. The economic effects would be substantial, with a projected 11.8 million people using the bridge in the first year alone. By the fifth year, the proposed traffic volume was 16 million, and by its twentieth year in existence, 23 million people would use the bridge. The tolls, $1.75 for passenger cars and a significantly higher toll for commercial vehicles, would lead to a $21.5 million increase in revenue in the first year and an increase of $43 million by the twentieth year.
Other than monetary benefits, there were also to be economic benefits:
A wider regional market will be available to business enterprises on both sides of the Sound, thereby creating more favorable conditions for establishment of new businesses and expansion of older ones. This applies particularly to specialized enterprises serving areas broader than individual localities.
Employment opportunities will be broader for residents on both sides of the Sound. Individuals with special skills will have a wider field in which to locate, and there will be more opportunity to match skills with jobs. As a result, income levels will often rise as people will be more able to utilize their maximum abilities. The need to relocate families in order to gain better access to employment will be diminished.
Because the bridge will contribute to a healthy economic development of the region, it will have a favorable general effect on property values and therefore on the tax base. Consequently, it will tend to hold down tax rates. These favorable impacts may have been the experience of many transportation improvements.
Movement of goods will be an important function of the new bridge. For the first time, highway access will be available for freight movements to and from Long Island without the need to overcome New York City congestion. Freight shipments to Long Island are now charged at a premium rate. Construction of the bridge could result in a reduction in rates for Long Island shippers and receivers, with a possible favorable effect on the cost of living as well as on the costs of doing business.
Construction of a major project of the magnitude of the proposed bridge and its approach highways will provide a substantial number of jobs during the period it is under construction. Approximately 55 percent of the total cost of construction will be for labor, of which the major element will be on-site. It is estimated that approximately 6,400 man-hours of work will be required, spaced over a three-year period. This means an average of about 2,100 men working on the project, with a peak force of perhaps 3,000 workers. In addition to the labor employed directly on contract work, both on-site and off-site, there will also be employment created in the furnishing of materials, supplies and services required for the project. Secondary economic benefits also will be realized from expenditures by workers employed on the project, both in the vicinity of the bridge site and elsewhere in the region. All of this economic activity will produce substantial additional income for the region, most of it without requiring additional permanent community services.— Robert Moses, NYSDOT and MTA, Oyster Bay – Rye Bridge Economic Impact Statement (1973)
Moses ran into a problem once the proposal was brought to the Federal Highway Administration. Opposition to the bridge was beginning to form on both sides of Long Island Sound. In addition, plans to turn the Oyster Bay area into a bird sanctuary and a protected park made working on the highway harder, as building on such protected places is forbidden by law. Faced with growing opposition, Governor Rockefeller canceled the plans for the bridge on June 20, 1973, nine years after the first proposal by Moses.
In January 2008, this idea was revived when developer Vincent Polimeni proposed building a privately financed, tolled tunnel between Oyster Bay on Long Island and Rye in Westchester County, featuring two tubes carrying three lanes of traffic each and a third tube for maintenance and emergency access. The route would connect Route 135 (Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway) on Long Island to Interstate 287 in Westchester County. It would cost between $12 and $16 billion and would not be completed until at least 2025. The proposed tunnel would be 16 to 18 miles (26 to 29 km) long, making it the world's longest highway tunnel, longer than the Lærdal Tunnel in Norway. A hearing on this proposal was held in Syosset on January 24, 2008.
During his second term, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also proposed a tunnel connecting NY 135 to Rye. This is also a highway in two tubes and a third tube for maintenance. After a polarizing debate, the NYSDOT released a statement saying the tunnel would not be moving forward at this time.
List of proposals
Proposals by year
The idea for a bridge dates back to the 1930s, but most studies were done in the 1960s and 1970s. Details can be found at the cited reference.
- 1938 – U.S. Senator Royal Copeland proposed the construction of an 18-mile bridge from Orient Point, New York, to Connecticut or Rhode Island.
- 1957 – Charles H. Sells proposed Oyster Bay to Rye Bridge and Orient Point to Watch Hill Bridge
- 1965 – Bertram D. Tallamy Associates performed a study for the New York State Department of Public Works.
- 1966 – New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller began a concerted effort to build a bridge across the Sound.
- 1971 – Creighton, Hamburg, Incorporated studied eight bridge proposals for the NYSDOT.
- 1979 – New York Governor Hugh Carey set up a tri-state advisory committee to study building a bridge across the Sound.
- 2001 – Robert Wiemer proposed a tunnel to link Oyster Bay and Rye.
- 2007 – Long Island based entrepreneurs Vincent Polimeni and his son Michael, engineers Hatch Mott MacDonald, bankers Bear Stearns, and Rubenstein Assoc PR people proposed a tunnel between Oyster Bay and Rye.
- 2018 – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a NY 135 to Rye tunnel.
Proposals by location
Proposals for the Sound link are listed below from west to east.
|Southern point||Northern point||Length||Bridge or tunnel||Estimated cost||Year proposed|
|Sands Point||New Rochelle||3.3 miles (5.3 km)||Bridge||$132 million||1971|
|Glen Cove||Rye||4.6 miles (7.4 km)||Bridge||$150 million||1971|
|Oyster Bay||Rye||6.1 miles (9.8 km)||Bridge||$168 million||1971|
|Oyster Bay||Rye||6.1 miles (9.8 km)||Tunnel||2001|
|Oyster Bay||Rye||16 miles (26 km)||Tunnel||$8 to $10 billion||2007|
|Port Jefferson||Bridgeport||14.5 miles (23.3 km)||Bridge||$219 million
|Shoreham||New Haven||24.0 miles (38.6 km)||Bridge||$565 million
|Wading River||East Haven||Bridge||1979|
|Riverhead||Guilford||20.1 miles (32.3 km)||Bridge||$510 million
|East Marion||Old Saybrook||10 miles (16 km)||Bridge||$206 million
|Orient Point||East Lyme||Tunnel||1966|
|Orient Point||Watch Hill||15.4 miles (24.8 km)||Bridge||$392 million
|Orient Point||Groton and Watch Hill||23.8 miles (38.3 km)||Bridge||$260 million||1963|
- The Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company Archived March 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Cross Sound Ferry
- "Long Island Crossings." Last updated: April 6, 2005. Access date: March 11, 2008. (See also the sources cited on this website.)
- Ormseth, Matthew. "The Latest, $55 Billion Solution to Long Island Sound Crossing: Underwater Tunnel". courant.com. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
- "Master Plan for Nassau County". Nassau County Department of Public Works. 1959. Cite journal requires
- "Traffic, Earnings and Feasibility of the Long Island Sound Crossing". Madigan-Hyland, Incorporated. 1965. Cite journal requires
- Moses, Robert (1966). Proposed Bayville-Rye Bridge. Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Caro, Robert A. (1974). The Power Broker. Vintage Books-Random House.
- Anderson, Steve (2009). "Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge (unbuilt)". NYCRoads. Retrieved April 11, 2009.
- "A Comprehensive Transportation Study for Proposed Bridge Crossings". Creighton, Hamburg, Incorporated. 1971. Cite journal requires
- Federal Highway Administration; Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York State Department of Transportation (1972). "Long Island Sound Crossing: Draft Environmental Section 4(f) Statement". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Cite journal requires
- Moses, Robert; Federal Highway Administration; Metropolitan Transportation Authority; New York State Department of Transportation (November 1972). "Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge, Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement". Federal Highway Administration, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York State Department of Transportation. Cite journal requires
- Clines, Francis X. (June 21, 1973). "Rockefeller Halts Efforts to Build L.I. Sound Bridge". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved July 18, 2010.
- Winzelberg, David. "Tunnel plan plows ahead". Polimeni International. http://libn.com/. Retrieved June 29, 2017. External link in
- "Toll tunnel under Long Island Sound NY proposed - Sound Link". Toll Roads News. November 26, 2007. Retrieved September 11, 2015.
- "Hearing Held to Discuss Long Island Sound Tunnel Proposal. If Built, Would be Longest Motor Tunnel in the World." By Denise Nash. Manhasset Press, February 1, 2008.
- "Cuomo pushes Sound tunnel despite opposition". Newsday. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
- Robert Wiemer. "The Outer Burrow". Newsday cover page, June 3, 2001. Cited in S. Berliner, III.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 21, 2008. Retrieved March 12, 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- The tunnel would travel 6 miles (9.7 km) underwater and an additional 10 miles (16 km) under land to reach suitable entry points near the highways.
- This would have been a tri-state bridge, with a fork at Fisher's Island and separate termini at Groton and Watch Hill.
- A Comprehensive Study for Proposed Long Island Sound Crossings; Part One
- Proposed Long Island Sound Crossings; Comparative Data on Alternative Crossings: Part Two
- Proposed Long Island Sound Crossings; Current Cost Estimates: Part Three
- Proposed Long Island Sound Crossings; Correspondence from Robert Moses
- Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge
- Shoreham-New Haven Bridge
- Eastern Long Island Sound Crossings
- The Philadelphia Inquirer: