New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday the start of construction for a $150 million road, transit and economic development hub in the Town of Woodbury in Orange County. The project is expected to relieve major traffic congestion in the area and be completed five years ahead of schedule.
Cuomo initially announced during his Mid-Hudson State of the State address in January that the hub project would be accelerated. The Route 17/32 corridor, with its connection to the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, is plagued by severe seasonal traffic. In Harriman on Wednesday, Cuomo says what has been talked about for some 20 years will be put into action.
“This project has to be done. It has to be done right but it has to be done quickly,” Cuomo said. “And that’s exactly what this plan will do. It is a total redesign.”
Acting Executive Director of the state Thruway Authority Matthew Driscoll says the new hub will include the construction of a so-called diverging diamond interchange; replacement of the Route 32 bridge over Route 17, which will be higher; a new underpass under Route 32 with roundabouts at each end; a new lane in each direction on Route 32; a bicycle and pedestrian safety corridor; a new south entrance to Woodbury Common; a new Monroe-Woodbury School District roadway and new parking areas; and a new 200-space park and ride lot, with a solar-reliant bus shelter. And he talks more about a diamond interchange.
“It’s a crossover section that really moves traffic from the right side of the road to the left side of the road and then back again. So what that means is is that all left turns occur without having to cross opposing traffic,” Driscoll said. “It will allow traffic to freely make left- and right-hand turns with no opposing traffic, and it will greatly increase the efficiency of the corridor, in particular, access to the Thruway and Route 17 as well. So this is a big, big change on this section.”
He says a diverging diamond interchange was implemented in 2012 in Rochester. Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis says the project’s commencement is good news, but there was something that took him by surprise.
“Congestion’s going to ease. Many hundreds of construction jobs will be created, so this is great news that it is now moving forward. The bid was formally awarded just a couple of days ago on November 28,” Skoufis says. “The concerning news is that DOT has dramatically changed the long agreed upon plans for this interchange.”
Skoufis, of Woodbury, says he was not invited to Cuomo’s event announcing the beginning of construction.
“Quite frankly, it’s unseemly that these alterations were made at the last minute, behind closed doors, with literally zero local input,” says Skoufis. “And so now we have this diamond design that seems to be a new design that’s out there that people don’t really know too much about that is a total change from what had been long agreed to to implement here at this [Exit] 131 interchange. Now, it’s possible the revamped design is better than the original, but it’s also possible that it’s worse, but we just don’t know. Residents don’t know. Local officials don’t know.”
Republican state Senator Bill Larkin praised the plan during Cuomo’s event, as did Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, who represents most of Sullivan County and a portion of Orange.
“In two years, we’re going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock,” said Gunther. “And that’s an international crowd that will be drawn to our area, and this will help so, so much.”
In addition, the Thruway Authority will implement cashless tolling at the Harriman toll barrier by October 2018. And the project will create up to 700 jobs through a project labor agreement.
The state Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting on the project in the Central Valley Elementary School cafeteria December 14 at 7 p.m.