Thursday, June 28, 2012

That doesn't mean other options can't work

Sustainable transportation advocates in New York City have been campaigning for years to tear down the Sheridan Expressway, a lightly used 1.25 mile stretch of four-lane highway in the Bronx connecting the Bruckner Expressway with the Cross-Bronx expressway. It was built in 1956-1958 and named in honor of Arthur V. Sheridan, Bronx Borough Commissioner of Public Works, who oversaw construction of the Cross-Bronx under Bob Moses and was killed a car crash in 1952 while driving to pick up his eleven-year-old son. It was planned to continue north as an elevated expressway above Boston Road, all the way to Co-Op City, but those plans were abandoned in 1971 after years of protests.

The Sheridan Expressway should never have been built. It cuts the residential neighborhoods to the west off from the Bronx River. At the time it was built you didn't want to go to the Bronx River, but now it would make a nice riverwalk. For cars it is redundant with the Bronx River Parkway, and for trucks it is redundant with the Bruckner and Major Deegan Expressways. I have a double standard for redundancy: for transit and freight trains it's good, but for cars it's bad, and the very simple reason is that we want to encourage people to take transit and ship by train instead of cars and trucks.

The New York State Department of Transportation was always hostile to the idea of tearing down the Sheridan, and recently we heard that the City Departments of Transportation and City Planning have abandoned the possibility of tearing it down. Advocates were disheartened, but today Transportation Nation provided a ray of hope, courtesy of City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan:

"I think you know the Bloomberg administration has been very innovative when it comes to traffic engineering," she said. "But in this instance this particular option didn’t work — but that doesn’t mean other options can’t work here and we’re going to continue to explore them."

I have another option that I hope Sadik-Khan and her colleagues will explore: let's tear down the Bronx River Parkway instead, from the Bruckner to the Cross-Bronx.

Steve Anderson tells us, "The proposed expressway was to serve vehicles that could not travel on the Bronx River Parkway, whose extension into the Bronx was in the design stages at the time." As I mentioned above, there is a mile-long section of the Bronx River Parkway that also connects the Bruckner and Cross-Bronx Expressways. The Sheridan serves cars, trucks and buses, but the Parkway serves only cars.

As we saw last month, this section of the Bronx River Parkway is no picturesque historic drive. It's a dangerous six-lane highway built in 1950 on eight blocks that used to be low-rise apartment buildings. If it were torn down, new apartments could be built to replace them, perhaps with a greenway in part of the old right-of-way. It might not be as big a triumph as tearing down the Sheridan, but it would be a lot better than nothing.

In fact, section of the the Parkway just north of the Cross-Bronx is the part that's elevated over the subway yards and the zoo, the site of the crash that killed seven people. Governor Cuomo is planning to spend 232 million dollars to replace that elevated section. As I suggested in May, that project is a huge waste of money. We could make it a lot safer by rebuilding it as a four-lane road with shoulders and a parallel greenway, at least from Pelham Parkway south.

Is tearing down this redundant section of the Bronx River Parkway one of the "other options" that Commissioner Sadik-Khan had in mind? If not, let's hope she adds it to her list.


Ryan said...

A wonderful, brilliant and obvious idea. Of course it would require some reconstruction and realignment of the Bronx River Pkwy, Cross Bronx and Sheridan interchange, but as you mentioned, major improvements have already been proposed for this general area. The bridge and interchange could be redesigned and reconstructed at the same time, shifting traffic on to a signed interstate road and out of a dense neighborhood.

neroden@gmail said...

Have you emailed the idea directly to her?

We know Governor "frack Upstate" Cuomo will not stop his road-warrior ways but Sadik-Kahn might listen.