Thursday, November 15, 2018

RIOC Hosts Walk And Talk About $14 Million Roosevelt Island Bike Ramp And Promenade Lane Last Saturday With Residents - Here's What Happened

Last Saturday November 10, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) hosted a Walk and Talk at the Motorgate Atrium

about the proposed $14 million Roosevelt Island Bike Ramp and

 Image Of Roosevelt Island Motorgate Helix From Above Via Google Maps

Promenade Lane project.

RIOC Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson reports:

If you missed last Saturday’s Walk and Talk about the proposed bicycle ramp and bike lane project,

it’s not too late to share your thoughts.

While only 10 residents showed up for the 10 a.m. community walkthrough - that started at the Motorgate garage

and continued along the

East Side Promenade - RIOC has provided a questionnaire about the project to solicit your thoughts.

The proposed Roosevelt Island Bike Ramp and Eastside Bike Lane Promenade project aims to construct a bike ramp connecting bicyclists from the top of the Roosevelt Island Bridge down to the East Promenade and provide a two-way ¾-mile safe path for bicyclists along the waterfront of the Island away from Main Street vehicular traffic.

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) towards the estimated $4 million ramp construction.

In 2018, RIOC applied for a second TAP award, $5 million; to be applied to the potential $10 million construction costs of the bike lane which includes infrastructure improvements, electrical needed for lighting, storm water/bio-infiltration management; along with pavement, landscape, lighting and signage finishes.

Potential award announcements are expected to come this December 2018.

RIOC has procured Dewberry Engineers and their team including Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects to design the ramp and lane project. The group has just completed its existing conditions study and is beginning the design process with community input.

Please fill out the attached questionnaire and return to Alonza Robertson, RIOC’s public information officer via email at

Among those attending the Walk and Talk were Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council Members David Lawson, Mickey Rindler and Frank Farance. I asked each for their thoughts on the proposed Bike Ramp.

Mr Lawson writes:
As RIRA Planning committee chair, I have advocated for this ramp and bike lanes around the island for the past two years.

I am therefore pleased of this major step forward. The ramp will ensure greater safety for bikers and wheelchairs. The bike lane will also ensure safety through more orderly circulation of bikers and pedestrians on the East promenade.

This bike lane will also permit to enhance the landscape of the East promenade, and the island transport infrastructure; this is a much welcome development as well. While this bike lane will connect the ramp from the RI bridge to the existing bike lane around Cornell, this should be considered as work in progress as such bike lane should extend all around the island. This segment of the bike lane will certainly help gather additional budget to extend it.

I warmly welcome this development and thank RIOC President Susan Rosenthal who delivers on a promise made to me two years ago. I also applaud the involvement of the community and RIRA in the finalization of this project. I now look forward to an expeditious completion of the planning phase to begin actual construction for the benefit of all on our island.
Mr. Rindler writes:
I’m excited that there is interest and money available to beautify the East Side of the Island while at the same time improving bike access and enhancing the safety of pedestrians and others using the East promenade.

The representatives of Matthews Nielson Architects and Dewberry Engineers seemed open to residents’ ideas and concerns. However, it is disappointing that the extent of the project’s scope was from the helix south to the bike lane around Cornell when residents would like to see the whole east side of the Island upgraded.

In addition, the architects would not discuss their plans for the proposed new helix bike ramp and did not appear to be familiar with previous proposals to create bicycle lanes on the RI bridge, which would impact the plans for the new ramp. The cost of the project is also a concern.
Mr Farance writes:
RIOC has hired the same architects that have given us the poorly designed and drained Firefighters Field.

My overall impression was: they sound like people completely disconnected from the community, and knowing nothing about the community ... as if they were writing their first sales pitch after taking Marketing 101. This sounds like virtually all the people RIOC has brought over the years, whether the Columbia transportation (non-)experts, to the crew doing community workshops on how to redo Southpoint Park ... which the community rejected all of their ideas (the community likes the natural aspects of the park).

For example, they were talking about the "East Side" - as if it were some destination for anyone on or off the Island: "Cycle to the back of Eastwood, with its magnificent views of the power plant and kerosene-tinged air during peak energy days in summer and winter!" (not!)

The architects keep saying "drainage issue" every couple hundred feet when they saw a puddle. I didn't get much confidence about their experience and competence. This is consistently a problem with RIOC: many of these concerns would be addressed with a traffic engineer (RIOC had one on contract circa 2010), but this is a core expertise that is absent from much of this discussion. And they didn't have much knowledge on the neighborhood on the Queens side of the bridge.

I think this community will have to educate this firm on fundamental safety issues. For example, the community has strongly expressed concerns about high speed bikers/skaters on stretches of the east and west promenades in the WIRE corridor. As explained by the firm, they are focus upon lane width, but they seem to be oblivious to lane speed. Another safety concern is about cars: I asked about certain crossings and suggested that she drive the route (to understand bike safety concerns), but she insists on biking ... not a scientific methodology towards safety concerns.

There three aspects of this effort: the study, the bike ramp from bridge to ground, the bike lane. First, the scoping is wrong on the study. At present RIOC's scope on this is to study only the Roosevelt Island Bridge south to the QBB on the east promenade. It makes no sense to study this in isolation as the other areas will interact. STRONG SUGGESTION: The scope of the *Study Phase* in expanded to include from Lighthouse down to entrance of Southpoint Park (even though portions already have bike lanes). Second on the bike ramp, a ramp should be considered *inside* the helix where it can be dropped into an open area towards the promenade (shipping containers are there now). Third on the bike lane, there seems to be no rationale on why the bike lane did not go north of the Roosevelt Island Bridge. STRONG SUGGESTION: For the Design and Implementation Phases of the bike lake, its northern starting point should be the traffic circle at the Firehouse, and its southern terminus should be connecting with the bike lanes at the corner of North Loop and East Loop roads.

I'll have more specifics soon on addressing details of bike ramp and bike lane.
Mr. Rindler adds:
The architects told me they had designed the bikeway on the West Side Highway. That is a very impressive bike path with beautiful vegetation and landscaping and there are plenty of signs to slow down etc. Ergo, I would not make the assumption that they don't understand what they are doing.
Below is the RIOC Bike Ramp questionaire.

UPDATE 11/26 - Also attending was Roosevelt Island resident Stephen Quandt who adds:
In the presentation re: the bike ramp and bike path proposal two important issues are worth highlighting. It was identified that the scope of the project in no way addresses the bottleneck that occurs at the RI bridge and just past it in Queens, specifically that the bridge is not designed for bicycle traffic, and that just off the bridge one is technically required to dismount one's bicycle. The hope and expectation is that if the ramp and path are built creating an increase in traffic that the DOT will then address and fix the above issues -- a kind of "if we build it they will come" attitude that may have some precedent. Note that it was mentioned that the Army Corp of Engineers controls the bridge. The counter argument is to address these problems first to avoid spending "fourteen million dollars to nowhere".

The second issue relates to the path itself, a three quarter mile path connecting the bridge to the existing bike path at Cornell near the ferry landing. The upside of this is that by connecting a new path to an existing one, the total length of the path increases, and that could create a bigger motivation to make it island-wide. The downside is that it seems like once again the north end of the island is being ignored including the serious deficiencies bicycle riders confront when traversing that area. Regardless of the supposed "logic" in heading south with the path, it seems like big money projects follow big money, and that the needier areas are ignored in the hope that someday the largesse of big money will bestow gifts on them. This is a tone deaf approach to community planning.

How much more would it cost to extend the path to Lighthouse Park? Possibly a great deal but we don't know because no one has publicly broken down the project cost between the ramp and the path. All we know right now at a projected cost of $14 million for a three quarter mile path and ramp, the cost is over $3500 per foot. RIOC should tell us how much money is being allocated to the path, and how much to the ramp.

RIOC should also conduct focus groups around the island to build consensus for this project. Is it true that so far only $3 million of the funding has been found? Where is the rest of the money coming from? Does RIOC have to raise all the money before spending any of it, or can they start the project with incomplete funding? If it was self-funded it would cost around $1000 per island resident.