[Update 11/20: You can now tell NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stan Gee that you oppose this project via e-mail. TSTC has also made available the project's Draft Design Report. Read more here.]
The New York State DOT had a hard time defending a proposal to extend and expand ramps on the Major Deegan Expressway in the South Bronx at a hearing this Monday. The plan met opposition from government, advocacy groups and residents alike for its dubious traffic assumptions, negative impact on waterfront access, and misplaced funding priorities.
The plan was originally conceived as an effort to rehab the elevated Deegan from Macombs Dam to 138th Street, where the highway has deteriorated to the point where nets and timber beams are in place to support the underside of the roadway and catch falling debris. (The DOT has stressed that the structure is safe for driving and is not in danger of collapse.) But the focus has shifted to an old-fashioned highway capacity expansion plan. The NYSDOT presenter stated plainly that “congestion relief,” not rehabilitation, is now “the primary objective of the project.”
NYSDOT plans include a doubling of the exit ramp lanes from one to two and an extension of the ramps to fit more vehicles. A striking feature is the addition of an “auxiliary” lane in each direction to match the new lane on the ramps. By any name, these additions amount to widening the highway’s footprint under the false promise of congestion relief.
At the hearing, NYC’s Department of City Planning registered its opposition to the current design, calling it “in direct conflict” with city plans to redevelop the waterfront and the lower Grand Concourse and explicitly asking NYSDOT to refine the Deegan project. Congressman Jose E. Serrano, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and Bronx Community Board 1 have all come out against the project for its conflict with the waterfront plans.
On Tri-State’s website, you can tell NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stan Gee and the Deegan project team that this is a waste of money. Comments can also be directed to Syed Rahman by fax at (718) 482-6391, by mail at NYS Dept. of Transportation, Region 11, 47-40 21st Street, Long Island City, NY 11101, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One wonders about NYSDOT’s priorities, particularly given Gov. Paterson’s insistence that the state cannot afford a large transportation capital program. How can a $340 million highway expansion in the South Bronx, that is opposed by the city and local residents, take precedence over much needed pedestrian safety improvements and critical infrastructure needs?
According to the recent T4America report Dangerous by Design, pedestrians accounted for over 31% of all NYC traffic fatalities, yet New York State spent only 1% of its $5.6 billion in federal transportation dollars for pedestrian safety projects between 2005 and 2008. During the same time period, Grand Concourse and Broadway in the Bronx saw 6 pedestrian deaths each and 5 pedestrians were killed on E. Gun Hill Rd.
There are also urgent needs statewide to fix crumbling infrastructure that represent a better use of funds. Upstate, the Lake Champlain Bridge was allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that it was closed last month and must be demolished and a new bridge constructed in its place. Across the state, 110 bridges have lower safety ratings than the Champlain Bridge had before it was closed, according to the Albany Times Union.
Image: Photo of NYSDOT information board by Kyle Wiswall/TSTC.