Two very pleasant traffic surprises
It was off to an all-day company meeting at a hotel in Rockland County. For the geographically uninitiated, that is the part of New York State located west of the Hudson and directly north of New Jersey. It was about a 75-mile drive each way, but it wasn’t the distance that concerned me so much as the traffic I’d be likely to encounter. My route would be Long Island Expressway-Cross Island Parkway-Throgs Neck Bridge-Cross Bronx Expressway-George Washington Bridge-Palisades Interstate Parkway. The parts that concerned me the most were the Long Island Expressway (I’d be traveling in peak direction both way), the Cross Bronx Expressway (always heavy traffic), and the bridges (toll booth delays). I left home at 5:45 in the morning, figuring I’d be lucky to make it to the meeting for the Continental breakfast at 8:30.
I needn’t have worried so much. Traffic on the way to the meeting was much, much lighter than I ever would have expected. There were only a couple of relatively minor slowdowns on the Long Island Expressway, both in Nassau County. It probably would have been much worse in another hour or so. There was no wait at the Throgs Neck Bridge toll booth), and even the usually brutal Cross Bronx Expressway was at least semi-tolerable. I made it across the George Washington Bridge without incident, there’s no toll in this direction, and the Palisades Parkway was fine. Because I was so far ahead of schedule, with the breakfast not starting this early, I stopped at the Rockefeller Overlook to walk around a bit and enjoy the view from atop the cliffs. It’s pretty cool, looking straight down 400 feet to the river. I arrived at the hotel just after eight, discounting the scenic-view stop my total driving time was just under two hours.
Returning home after the meeting, which was tolerable as these things go, was only slightly worse. I was delayed about five minutes by a crash on a local road in Rockland County near the Palisades entrance, but when I got to the toll booth for the George Washington Bridge I had no wait at all. Eastbound traffic on the bridge itself was sluggish, and the Cross Bronx was worse than it had been in the morning, but I had no delays across the Throgs Neck, and the Long Island Expressway was heavy much of the way but always moving at 40 mph or better. The return trip took about 2:15 to 2:20, with no stops. All in all, my fears of endless delays and non-moving traffic proved incorrect.
I’d have to say the worst part of the trip was the exorbitant amount I spent on tolls, $5.50 each way on the Throgs Neck and $8 eastbound-only on the George Washington. These bridges are 45 and 75 years old respectively, so the construction bonds have long since been paid off, and maintenance costs surely don’t account for more than a small share of the toll revenues. Drivers pay through the nose in order to subsidize mass transit systems – the city subway and buses, Metro North, and the LIRR in the case of the Throgs Neck, PATH in the case of the George Washington. While quality transit is essential, the fact remains that New York-area transit systems are horrendously mismanaged, with multiple redundant layers of bureaucracy, meddlesome politicians, rapacious vendors, and of course greedy unions sticking their grubby little fingers into everything. Motorists are the ones who suffer.