Although the possibility of installation is still years away, the MTA has highlighted the numerous procedures that must be taken before that dream can become a reality.
Cyclists have been pushing for bike pathways on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge for decades.
Extending Transit’s Reach, a comprehensive strategy to enhance cycling, micromobility, and pedestrian access at MTA bridges, stations, and bus stops, was unveiled by the MTA on Wednesday.
“The MTA is ready to hit the ground running, increasing bike and pedestrian access at stations and on bridges,” said MTA Construction and Development President Jamie Torres-Springer.
“This plan will make sure that connection to transit for cyclists and pedestrians is a priority, both now and into the future, as a core value of future capital projects,” Springer added.
The 92-page study includes a list of all the steps that need to be done before the agency can consider adding bike lanes to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, as has been demanded by lawmakers and cycling enthusiasts for the past year.
The lower-level concrete decks would need to be replaced with steel to reduce the bridge’s weight and increase its resilience. A project would also be required to increase the main cables of the bridge’s longevity.
The agency is then required to do a wind analysis based on the bridge’s new weight, load, and capacity, as well as extra testing of the main cables’ ability to support the additional load associated with the proposed installation of the bike paths.
The MTA next needs to coordinate property agreements with NYC Parks, the U.S. government, and other parties after conducting environmental evaluations and engaging various stakeholders on potential ramp alignments for the additional pathways.
For the necessary land, the Army, and the National Parks Service.
The MTA would need to commit a sizeable amount of funds to install the bike pathways after all other conditions have been satisfied, just like any other capital project.
The MTA Bike Access Bill, which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed in December 2021, mandated that the organization create a thorough strategy to encourage cycling and pedestrian access to MTA bridges and passenger terminals.
State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx), who was the bill’s sponsor in the state Senate, claimed at the time that the legislation might finally result in the installation of bike lanes on the organization’s bridges, something that residents of Staten Island and Brooklyn have long pushed for on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
“The MTA Bike Access Bill will finally connect all five boroughs with safe bike lanes on MTA bridges and promote cycling in every corner of the city,” Biaggi said.
At the time, an MTA representative said the organization couldn’t comment on whether bike lanes might be added to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and offered scant details about what might come next.
The proposal was finally made public after a year and included a list of steps to be taken before the prospective installation of the bike infrastructure.
“The 2015 Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge Master Plan highlighted the retrofitting of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge with pedestrian and bicycle routes as a long-term enterprise needing feasibility studies and many significant capital projects over several years.
The document states that a series of enabling projects must be completed before the prospective construction of the proposed cantilevered pathways.
Among those who have long pushed for bike lanes on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge are Rose Uscianowski, Transportation Alternatives’ Staten Island and South Brooklyn activist.
“It’s something that I strongly believe has been owed to the entire cycling and pedestrian community since the bridge opened in the 1960s, and I think this finally brings us at least one step closer,” Uscianowski said.
Uscianowski asserted that the construction of safe bike lanes on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge would benefit both residents of Staten Island and Brooklyn in numerous ways, including economic, recreational, and environmental gains.
The surge of bicycles, pedestrians, and visitors could help the local economy recover from the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which still affects many small companies.
“The potential benefits for small businesses on both sides of the harbor would be enormous. We’re talking about giving a new customer base to businesses across Brooklyn and Staten Island, and this is a time right now, amid COVID, that those benefits are so desperately needed,” Uscianowski added.
Protected bike lanes would also motivate locals to exercise more and provide recreational bikers and runners a chance to cross one of the nation’s most famous bridges and enjoy the scenery.
Uscianowski claimed it would allow New Yorkers to engage in more physical activity, particularly in Brooklyn and Staten Island. “I can tell you that the views are beyond fantastic. I have biked over the bridge once and twice.”
Giving residents of Staten Island another option to cross the bridge would also be good for the environment, as less traffic and lower carbon emissions result from fewer vehicles on the road.
Giving people an alternative to driving a car would benefit the environment, according to Uscianowski.