Business / Environment

State scraps plan to keep trucks off local streets

New York City Department of City Planning

The Sheridan Expressway will not be torn down, now that the state has stopped planning changes to the Bruckner Expressway.

End of plan for Bruckner also dooms Sheridan tear-down

The State Department of Transportation has abandoned plans to take truck traffic off the streets of Hunts Point by building new ramps from the Bruckner Expressway to Oak Point Avenue.

In a notice published in the Federal Register on June 12, the Federal Highway Administration said money to build the new ramps would instead be spent on the existing highway, which has fallen into severe disrepair.

The decision means that Hunts Point’s streets will continue indefinitely to be burdened with traffic to and from the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center and nearby businesses.

The cancellation of the planning for new ramps also puts a final nail in the coffin of plans to tear down the Sheridan Expressway and replace it with parks, housing and commercial buildings.

Study cost $17 million

Taxpayers paid $17 million for the scrapped 10-year study of the Sheridan and Bruckner expressways before the state abandoned its plan to ease traffic on local streets with new ramps to Hunts Point’s industrial zone.

“It is money that was well spent,” said Adam Levine, a spokesman for the State Department of Transportation, which conducted the study.

Levine said the work will “help us figure out” the best way to repair the Bruckner, whose deterioration led his agency to drop its plans for the new ramps.

He also noted that the traffic analysis done as part of the environmental study was currently being used by the city departments of transportation and planning in their own study of the area.

Plans for improving traffic on the Bruckner began in 2002, and work on the environmental impact statement started in 2003. Five years later, the planners came up with a series of proposals for new ramps, and continued to study tearing down the Sheridan. Those plans were canceled and the effort ended in June.

A study conducted by the DOT in 2004 found that 5,300 trucks bound to and from the markets traveled through Hunts Point on local streets every day, and that 80 percent of them clogged Tiffany Street, Leggett Street or Hunts Point Avenue.

The transportation department spent 10 years forming plans to improve access to the Hunts Point peninsula and studying their impact on the environment. It estimated in 2002 that it would take $202 million to build the new ramps and to improve the interchange between the Sheridan and the Bruckner.

It is scrapping those plans because in inspections of the Bruckner over the last four years it has found notable deterioration, said Adam Levine, a DOT spokesman.

According to the notice in the Federal Register, several sections of the viaduct between the Triboro Bridge and the Sheridan are “in very poor condition.” No timetable for the repairs has been set, Levine said, because first his agency “has to figure out how that would be paid for.”

All-told 14,700 vehicles a day travel to and from the markets on local streets, according to the city’s Hunts Point Vision Plan. Shippers face delays ranging from eight to 13 hours getting in and out of the markets because of congestion on the highways and local streets, the Department of City Planning concluded in the most recent study of traffic from the Sheridan and the Bruckner.

“From a food access perspective, it is critical that the changes to the South Bronx’s infrastructure improve access” to the markets, according to the planning department, which is in the midst of a $1.5 million study of truck access to Hunts Point and the future of the Sheridan.

The city study is more crucial than ever, said Elena Conte of the Pratt Institute, which supplies planning expertise to the coalition that wants the Sheridan torn down, the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance.

“The needs still remain unaddressed,” she said. “Now more than ever we look to it to take a bold vision,” she continued, including a re-evaluation of its recent decision to stop considering removing the highway.

In a statement in response to questions from The Express, Congressman Jose Serrano said he was “disappointed and troubled by the decision to call off planning for new Bruckner off ramps.” The congressman, who procured the federal funds for the city study, also said it should continue to study “all options.”

Advocates on both sides of the contest over tearing down the Sheridan had agreed on the need to do a better job moving traffic from the Bruckner to the markets. They had reached a consensus on a plan to connect the highway to Oak Point Avenue.

Now that plan has been shelved indefinitely, said Levine, the DOT spokesman. He said $4 million still in the kitty to complete the environmental impact statement would instead be used for the repairs to the Bruckner.

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