He’s got tunnel vision

He’s got tunnel vision
Joe Oddo believes that creating a tunnel from Nassau county to Westchester county would ease traffic congestion on Bronx highways like the Bruckner Expressway, leading to a decrease in air pollution.
Photo by Annie Boller
by Annie Boller

Joe Oddo has tunnel vision.

The Pelham Bay civic leader is looking to resurrect a plan to build a tunnel from Syossett, L.I. across Long Island Sound to Rye in Westchester County.

If the dream ever became a reality, he says, it could ease Bronx traffic jams.

The idea for such a tunnel was first proposed by developer Vincent Polimeni in 2007, building his idea on an earlier proposal by city master builder Robert Moses, who proposed a bridge from Oyster Bay to Rye.

Moses’ proposal, however, was scrapped in the late-1960s after community opposition. Polimenti’s proposal also suffered the same fate on both sides of Long Island Sound.

Nevertheless, Oddo believes building a public tunnel from near the northern-end of the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (Route 135), to Rye, would ease Bronx traffic jams.

“The plan is to steer traffic away from the city and Bronx roads so that the local roads are not so crowded,” said Oddo. “That crossing would take traffic either going to or from Long Island or New England and steer it away from the city.”

Currently, the traffic jams not only slow down commutes for everyone in the Bronx and those coming to and from suburbs, but have been scientifically proven to increase asthma and learning disabilities in children, he said.

Oddo, who has researched previously proposed plans, said the bridge proposed by Moses was defeated by about 100 families in 1969. That was something of a double standard, he said, because 20,000 Bronx families were displaced and holes torn in communities when Moses built the Cross Bronx Expressway.

But now with the roads around the Bronx packed with traffic, new destinations being built in the east Bronx, and residents suffering from much higher rates of respiratory infections, Oddo’s propelled forward.

“You have a major new mall opening at I-95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway, you have the redevelopment of the golf center and the MTA facility in that same area, and the new 911 Call Center near Pelham Parkway,” Oddo said of several new projects taking shape near Pelham Bay. “All of this means more traffic.”

At a meeting with Council Speaker Christine Quinn at the City Island Civic Association on Tuesday, July 30, Quinn answered Oddo’s question about a tunnel by recalling growing up in Glen Cove, L.I., with her father supporting the Oyster Bay Bridge plan.

“He was the only guy on the island in favor of the bridge,” Quinn said.

The mayoral hopeful added that she would want to address the idea by getting a majority of appointments on the MTA board – IF she became mayor.

“We are not asking that a tunnel be completed in the next three years,” said Oddo, “but we are asking that the state Department of Transportation have a feasibility study conducted by an outside consulting agency.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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