President Biden’s ambitions—and much needed $2 trillion infrastructure plan can be a boon for The Bronx if our representatives in Congress, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Ritchie Torres, and Adriano Espaillat push hard enough.
The plan, which calls for billions to repair and rebuild bridges and roads and billions more for new schools, expand high-speed broadband access, and shift to cleaner energy are all things that are desperately needed in our borough.
All of these things can help our borough move forward and help the quality of lives for all.
The CrossX Light Rail
The time is now for our representatives to push for a Cross Bronx light rail that would provide an easy way to travel and commute between the East and West Bronx as well as Upper Manhattan.
Our subway system, being Manhattan-centric, is archaic given that Manhattan is no longer the center of economic life for the outer boroughs.
Economic growth in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island has outpaced Manhattan and we need our public transportation network to reflect that. Besides, it’s just good practice to evolve into a sustainable and green city.
Such a system could potentially run over or along the Cross Bronx Expressway much like the AirTrain in Queens linking to JFK and would dramatically ease the burden of intra-borough travel in The Bronx. I mean we all know that it’s a task that’s virtually impossible to do without major inconvenience and wasting of time as it is right now.
Sure, buses like the BX12 can get us across but their speed are dependent on road traffic and without exclusive Bus-only busways like 14th Street, we’re never gonna get from one end to the other of the Bronx in a timely fashion.
A light rail across the borough can also reduce the need for people to have to take the cars, and lets face it, public transportation, or rather RELIABLE public transportation, is good for the environment so this is a win-win in a borough that has some of the worst air pollution in the region along with some of the highest rates of asthma in the nation.
It would be an investment in the green new deal if a CrossX light rail became a reality.
Speaking of a Manhattan-centric subway system, currently, if you want to travel from The Bronx to Queens or Brooklyn by subway, you have to go through Manhattan first as there is no direct access other than by bus.
Given that economic growth, including the job sectors, has been stronger in the outer boroughs, it makes sense to have a transportation network that makes a direct connection between them without having to go through Manhattan.
One such way is to create the TriboroRx that would stretch for 24 miles from Co-op City in The Bronx to Bayridge, Brooklyn.
According to the Regional Plan Association which has provided several proposals on the issue, the 24 mile route could have 22 stations linking multiple subway lines together—17 in total—as well as four commuter rail lines from LIRR to Metro North.
The plan also calls for a spur that would connect to 3rd Avenue and 149th Street at The Hub in Melrose providing another crucial link into the existing transportation network.
The TriboroRx Subway line would be constructed along existing rail right of way between the three boroughs so actual construction would be minimal and relegated to mostly construction of the stations given that the rail actually already exists.
And the cost? RPA estimates the cost to be anywhere from $1 to $2 billion—significantly less than the 2nd Avenue Subway which cost $4.45 billion for two miles, three new stations, and an expansion of a fourth along a route that benefited a much smaller portion of the population.
While these figures were from a few years ago and inflation more than likely has increased the price tag, it’s still a drop in the bucket to invest in solid infrastructure that will benefit millions as well as making The Bronx a greener borough in the process.
Best of all, you can connect to the CrossX.
Capping the Cross Bronx Expressway
Like an ugly scar, the Cross Bronx Expressway bisects The Bronx and is a monument to master planner and Robert Moses and his destruction of Bronx neighborhoods that were ripped apart to create what would eventually become one of the worst highways in America.
While it may serve as a main interstate and the shipment of goods as well as carrying hundreds of thousands of commuters a day, it is also one of the biggest sources of pollution in our borough as a result of said traffic.
One way we can begin to re-stitch and heal these communities would be to “cap” portions of the highway and creating more open spaces as well as new land for much needed affordable housing.
The expressway can keep on running, it would just be covered up here and there with decks to create the open spaces. A report by Peter Meunnig, MD, MPH at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health published several years ago estimated the price tag to do so over 2.4 miles of the infamous roadway would be about $757 million.
Life long Bronx resident and activist, Nilka Martell, and founder of Loving The Bronx, has been advocating for capping a small portion in Parkchester that is next to Virginia Park, a green space Martell has activated with program over the years.
Martell feels that starting small would perhaps then spur greater interest and political will to cap larger portions of the Cross Bronx.
According to the report published by Dr Meunnig, MD, MPH, “Deck parks can produce multiple health benefits. Most notably, they remove contact between pedestrians and automobiles. In doing so, they not only reduce accidents but they also encourage active, pollution-free transportation such as biking or jogging.”
Meunnig also added, “Deck parks also place vehicles in a tunnel, thereby reducing noise and air pollution in surrounding neighborhoods. Finally, deck parks provide green space in which people can exercise and relax. In doing so, deck parks have the potential to reduce diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, cancer, low birth weight, and death associated with accidents.”
Given that The Bronx suffers from some of the highest rates of diabetes, asthma, obesity, and has the poorest health outcomes in New York State, this is common sense solutions that would address multiple issues.
A Breath of Fresh Air
While these projects sound ambitious, no great projects with lasting impacts that span generations start out as small ideas.
Implementing one or all three of these ideas will go a long way to righting the many wrongs inflicted upon our borough through design.
A Triboro Rx coupled with a CrossX Light Rail would provide easier access to employment opportunities for our residents by cutting commute times drastically and making it easier to get around.
Capping The Cross Bronx would truly be a concrete step towards improving health outcomes in our borough through the creation of open spaces as well as providing space for truly affordable housing to combat the homelessness crisis we have been facing in The Bronx for years.
These ambitious projects would also create thousands of construction jobs that can and should be accessible to our residents who are longing for decent paying jobs that aren’t simply minimum wage, dead-end employment.
The Bronx deserves better and we can only achieve it if we tell our elected officials what we need and want.