The state has committed $5 million to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) as partial funding to create a dedicated ramp that will connect cyclists from the Roosevelt Island Bridge to the east promenade onto a new, two-way, three quarters of a mile path south along the waterfront culminating at Cornell Tech—separate from traffic on Main Street. This infrastructure investment is part of a larger $144.6 million initiative encompassing 72 projects statewide, to support access to public transportation, roadway safety, and improved pedestrian spaces.
When the bike lane is complete, cyclists will no longer have to choose between sharing the steep, curvy Helix road with cars or squeezing their bikes into a Motorgate elevator. Last year, RIOC hosted a walk and talk to gather community input about their plan. The Roosevelt Island greenway consists of 3.52 miles of what is considered an easy ride.
Courtesy of RIOC
In April 2017, RIOC was approved for a $2.96 million award from the New York State Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) – Congestion
Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ).
In 2018, RIOC applied for a second TAP award –$5 million – to be applied to the potential $14 million in construction costs of the bike lane. These costs include infrastructure improvements, electrical equipment needed for lighting, stormwater/bio-infiltration management, as well as pavement, landscape, lighting and signage finishes. To that end, RIOC has procured Dewberry Engineers and their team, including Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, to design the ramp and lane projects.
“The proposed bike ramp and bike lane projects aim to improve access and circulation to the Island by constructing a bike ramp that will provide cyclists safe travel from the top of the Roosevelt Island Bridge down to the East Promenade” said Susan Rosenthal, RIOC President.
We aren’t the only beneficiaries of state money for bike lanes. The governor is allocating millions to help fund four city projects to create new bike lanes, pedestrian connections, and street upgrades on Randall’s Island, as well as a project to overhaul 13 Harlem River crossings that connect Manhattan and the Bronx.
"New York State is making historic, nation-leading investments in cleaner and more sustainable transportation infrastructure which is crucial to the growth of local economies," New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement. "These investments in bike and pedestrian enhancements across the state will help revitalize communities, reduce our carbon footprint and demonstrate once again that New York is building for the future."
A bike ramp to the Island is not a new idea. The Western Queens Transportation Study, launched by the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) in 2013, made recommendations for improving access to Roosevelt Island via a protected two-way bike path on the Roosevelt Island Bridge directing cyclists and pedestrians to East Road rather than Main Street, away from heavy bus and delivery truck use.
Sign at the foot of the Helix directs cyclists to the Motorgate elevator
According to the study, “It is safer, more direct, and provides a higher-quality streetscape.”
One reason to heed the DCP recommendation to keep cyclists off the helix and Main Street came in October of 2014 when 29-year old model and Octagon resident Anna Maria Mostrom collided with a southbound Red Bus after turning right and riding north off the helix. She was mortally wounded.
Alternate modes of travel on to the Island are always being discussed. The Cherry Blossom Festival revealed how, even when all of our modes of transportation are working, they still aren’t enough.
Residents have agitated for the return of an elevator or stairwell to connect us back to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. During the construction phase for Cornell Tech, former Assistant Director Andrew Winters expressed support for the idea, saying Cornell Tech would certainly benefit from having as many options as possible to get here.
However, the DOT has not been supportive of the idea. DOT spokeswoman Kay Sarlin, in a 2007 New York Times article, raised doubts about a passageway that would have to be nearly 135 feet high, saying, “‘It’s not feasible. They’d have to remove a lane of traffic to put in an elevator.’’Sarlin said a stairway could not be in- stalled because people with disabilities could not use it. Further, she said, since the facade of the bridge has landmark status, altering it would present a problem. Winters said Cornell Tech approached the DOT as well, receiving the same response.
Also in the Budget
The budget also included $110 million in capital funding to continue the NY Parks 2020 initiative to revitalize the State's flagship parks and support critical infrastructure projects.
Senator José M. Serrano, Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation, said, "As attendance to State Parks rises each year, significant investment is vital to ensuring the continued success of these proven economic engines. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation, I'm thrilled that the budget agreement includes an additional $110 million for State Parks, ensuring that New York's greatest natural treasures continue to be improved, beautified, and maintained for future generations to enjoy. Many thanks to Governor Cuomo and Acting Commissioner Kulleseid for their commitment to our parks and green spaces."