Island Lawmakers Want City To Appoint Transportation Czar

Diane J. Savino

January 08, 2008

A group of island lawmakers say they've come up with a plan that would prevent too many construction projects from happening at once – and the traffic congestion that comes with it. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

Ask islanders about traffic and one word comes to mind: Horrible. They say the congestion caused by ongoing construction leaves them frustrated and confused.

"[They're] closing one lane, opening another, closing two lanes, leaving one open,” complains Junior Rodriguez of West Brighton.

The problem, island Democrats say, boils down to this: too many projects, all happening at once.

"We had Gowanus expressway construction," says State Senator Diane Savino. "Then they decided to do the Verrazano Bridge project. Then they decided to do the toll plaza. And then just to add insult to injury, why don't we re-deck the Staten Island Expressway?"

Now she and her Assembly colleagues think they have a solution. They'd like to see one person – a transportation czar – oversee all of the projects being planned around the New York metro region and come up with a schedule to get it all done.

"Basically to be a keeper of the check list – to know what projects are happening and how they are interconnected," explains Assemblyman Michael Cusick.

"We'll have someone saying we can't start this project until this project is completed,” adds Assemblyman Matthew Titone.

The Democrats say the idea doesn't just make sense when it comes to efficiency but economically as well. They say the only cost involved would be the individual's salary and they feel that the benefits would far outweigh that cost.

"Trucks will get to their destination much faster, goods and services will be available to people at a quicker rate, it's a win/win, common sense solution," says Savino.

The individual would be nominated by the mayor and appointed by the governor. Republican lawmakers question whether creating one position will cure an island's worth of problems.

"I think it's beyond one person," says Congressman Vito Fossella. "I think it requires different agencies at the local, state...really everyone should come to the table and work out a solution piece by piece by piece."

The Democrats plan to introduce the bill in Albany this week.