Help is on the way sooner than expected for an area in Orange County that can be a traffic nightmare. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, during his Mid-Hudson regional State of the State address this week, announced the acceleration of a transit project in Woodbury.
Cuomo announced the acceleration of a $150 million reconstruction project to build the Town of Woodbury Transit and Economic Development Hub. The Route 17/32 corridor, with its connection to the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, is plagued by extremely high seasonal traffic.
“I am a very calm person,” Cuomo says. “I tend not to get excited but this can really test your patience going through this area.”
The Democratic governor notes that State Route 32 at the Route 17 Exit 131 interchange serves more than 70,000 vehicles daily, a figure that swells during peak shopping seasons.
“We’re going to reconstruct the Route 32 bridge over Route 17; build additional lanes on Route 17; install solar-powered bus stops; commuter parking at Metro-North; a new pedestrian sidewalk on 32,” Cuomo says. “The RFP will be out in the next month and shovels will be in the ground of November 2017.”
Construction previously was set to begin in 2018. This announcement is welcome news for Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus.
“Legoland is going to be one of the biggest projects to hit the East Coast, in particular, New York state. And the biggest problem, in my opinion, the only real problem left, is traffic,” Neuhaus says. “So doing that interchange, it was about $90 million set aside about a year ago. The governor announced $150 million. That’s going to be a major shot in the arm for the project.”
He refers to a proposed Legoland New York in Goshen.
“We’ve been working closely with the governor. in particular the couple months, the last two weeks we’ve been talking about Legoland in particular,” says Neuhaus. “This is a major project. The state cannot afford to lose it. So I think that that’s where you’re seeing this love, in my opinion, coming from Albany.”
Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis of Woodbury also welcomes the announcement.
“The acceleration is tremendous news. It’s welcome,” Skoufis says. “It’s something that I’ve been calling for for the past year, as have other local stakeholders.”
He says the project is a long time coming. Skoufis says he led the effort and helped secure funding for the project in last year’s budget, and is glad to hear the governor add funding. Plus, Skoufis believes the solar-powered bus station is a new facet.
“The most immediate positive impact vis-à-vis traffic is certainly going to be in and around Woodbury Common. There’s going to be a very significant mitigation of the existing traffic,” Skoufis says. “It’s going to get cars out of the mall much more readily, much more smoothly than what currently exists where you have to make all these left-hand turns for cars to get back onto the Thruway, towards the city, out of the mall.”
Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney praises the move to reconfigure the Route 17, Exit 131 Woodbury I-87 interchange. Maloney, member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says he worked with Cuomo and local officials to bring the project closer to fruition and helped secure federal funding through the Federal Highway Transportation bill in 2015. Meanwhile, Skoufis sees ancillary benefits further up Route 17.
“We are touching the entire interchange here. We’re actually touching Route 6, making some improvements there, certainly Route 32, Route 17 as you approach the toll booth,” says Skoufis. “And, look getting cars through the toll booths more quickly will certainly have some positive impact on traffic further up 17 which, as we know, is already a nightmare on summer weekends in particular. But once we have Legoland, if that comes to Goshen, once we have the casino further up in Sullivan County, there are going to be quite a few more cars riding on that road.”
And the Woodbury Transit and Economic Development Hub, he says will help get these cars to their destinations more quickly. Skoufis says making the toll booths cashless at Harriman Plaza would also help. Cuomo says the construction project will create nearly 600 jobs.