By Jake Conarck

Well Sir, there’s nothing on Earth like a bonafide, electrified, six-car monorail.  That is ,unless it costs $5 million just to study the feasibility of building one here at Stony Brook.

Buried in the budget passed weeks ago by the New York state legislature was nearly $150 million earmarked for various construction projects at Stony Brook known as strategic initiatives.  These included $45 million to build or acquire a law school, $40.8 million for a computer science building, $12.3 million for upgrades to the football stadium and arena, and many other allocations.

The most interesting strategic initiative, however, is $5 million for a monorail feasibility study.  Normally, new construction projects and upgrades are submitted to the legislature for consideration by the president of each university.  However, many of the strategic initiatives were allocated at the behest of State Senator Kenneth LaValle, chairman of the higher education committee. [Most notably the monorail feasibility study.]

According to Janice Rohlf, assistant vice president of governmental relation,s LaValle initiated the study in order to cut down on traffic on campus and use the monorail as a prototype for a possible solution to Long Island’s notorious traffic woes.  “We had been talking with the Senator about this for about 6 months now so it wasn’t a surprise to us,” said Rohlf.

What was surprising to many, however, was the amount of money allocated for the study in a time of steep budget cuts.  “It’s more than the average study might be,” said Dan Melucci, associate vice president for strategy, planning, and analysis, referring to the $5 million allocated for the study. Melucci added that the entirety of the $5 million might not be spent.  “We’ll know more when we float some feelers out there,” he said.

The monorail feasibility study is odd not only because belts are being tightened elsewhere in the university, but because a lot of money is being spent on upgrading the bus service to alleviate traffic problems on campus.   While an exact figure would not be disclosed, James O’Connor, director of parking and transportation services, estimated that the university is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on upgrading the bus fleet.

“We’ve been very ambitious and successful in replacing our bus fleet to become more reliable to meet the needs of the students and to have them not impact the environment as much as previous models,” said O’Connor.

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