The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) will host a council meeting to adopt the 2017-2021 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) on Wednesday, September 7. USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx will be the keynote speaker for the meeting, which presents a critical opportunity to put pressure on NYMTC Councilmembers, especially NYSDOT Commissioner Matt Driscoll, to uphold the secretary’s commitment to transforming urban highways into boulevards.
This year has been looking pretty good for highway conversions in the Empire State. In February, NYSDOT announced a major redesign of the Scajaquada Expressway, where a driver left the roadway and struck a mother and her two young children, one fatally, last year. The 2016-2017 fiscal year state budget included $97 million and $30 million for highway-to-boulevard conversions for the Sheridan and Scajaquada Expressways, respectively. This summer, the (belated) release of NYSDOT’s five-year capital plan confirmed that project spending. In March, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $40 million plan to replace a two mile stretch of the Robert Moses Parkway North adjacent to the Niagara Falls waterfront with a park. And last month, the governor said tearing down an elevated section of Interstate 81 in Syracuse could be a “transformative project” for the region.
But these projects are just in their early phases, and there are plenty more divisive highways throughout the state requiring attention. Routes 9 and 44/55 in Poughkeepsie would be prime candidates for boulevard conversions. City and state leaders need only to look to Rochester, where the city is moving forward with the second phase of its removal of the Inner Loop, to see how such projects can be undertaken.
Secretary Foxx must not pass up this opportunity to hold NYMTC and Commissioner Driscoll to task. New York has been making moves in the right direction, but encouragement from the nation’s top transportation official could go a long way toward prioritizing these projects and revitalizing communities long afflicted by disastrously-placed highways.