After nearly two decades of advocacy and planning to transform the Sheridan Expressway, South Bronx residents and businesses have a plan they agree on. The next step: Governor Cuomo’s State DOT must launch an environmental review to begin implementing the plan. The State Senate included $3 million for the review in its budget proposal [PDF]. With a unanimous 10-0 vote this afternoon, the City Council transportation committee urged the state to follow through and conduct the study. The full City Council is expected to endorse the request tomorrow.
“This vote is a historic moment for our campaign,” said Angela Tovar, director of policy and research at Sustainable South Bronx. “This plan is both mutually beneficial for businesses and for community residents.”
It’s been a long campaign to reach this point: Local residents, under the umbrella of the South Bronx River Watershed Alliance, fought back a state plan to expand the Sheridan in 1997. More recently, after the state — followed a couple of years later by the city — rejected complete removal of the expressway, advocates focused on what they could accomplish as the city continued to study other options to transform the highway.
The final product of the city’s multi-agency planning effort would provide residents with safer streets and improved access to the Bronx River, while creating better routes for the 15,000 daily truck trips to and from the Hunts Point wholesale food market.
“We have consensus with the business community, which has long been seen as adversarial to this change,” said Kellie Terry, executive director of THE POINT Community Development Corporation.
The plan, completed by the city last year, would convert the Sheridan Expressway into a surface boulevard and add direct ramps from the Bruckner Expressway to Oak Point Avenue, taking truck traffic bound for the Hunts Point Produce Market off local streets. The plan improves access to newly-built parks along the Bronx River and also opens up land for new development.
“There is a lot of consensus around the study and the recommendations,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo.
“The next step for making this project a reality,” said Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, “is for the state to undertake an environmental impact statement.”
The City Council resolution encouraging the state to fund and begin work on a Sheridan EIS comes as budget negotiations in Albany near the finish line, with an agreement expected by the end of the month. While the Sheridan EIS was included in the Senate budget proposal, it was not included in proposals from the Assembly or Governor Cuomo.