Sheridan Expressway Removal Gets $97 Million Boost in State Budget
Last week’s Albany budget deal includes $97 million for decommissioning the Sheridan Expressway and transforming it into a surface boulevard.
The Sheridan, a short Robert Moses-era highway connecting the Bruckner and Cross-Bronx expressways, cuts South Bronx neighborhoods off from the Bronx River waterfront and its growing network of parks and greenways. Community groups have been advocating for the removal of the Sheridan for almost two decades under the umbrella of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance (SBRWA).
The campaign has gone through many ups and downs in the past few years, and there’s still work to do to ensure that New York State DOT moves forward with the project, but with this allocation of state funds the teardown is closer to fruition than ever.
After the state DOT rejected a complete teardown in July 2010, activists refocused their efforts at the city level. That fall, four city agencies were awarded a $1.5 million TIGER grant from U.S. DOT to study how the highway removal might work. (At the time, current NYC Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was a high-ranking federal DOT official closely involved with TIGER.)
In June 2013, the city released a study recommending the transformation of the highway into a surface-level boulevard. The concept reserved more space for the replacement road than SBRWA’s vision had called for, but it still represented a huge improvement over the status quo: narrowing the roadway by nearly 100 feet, creating signalized intersections for walking and biking access to the riverfront, and opening up land for development.
The study also recommended new Bruckner Expressway off-ramps to provide trucks direct access to the huge Hunts Point Produce Market.
At the time, the cost of transforming the Sheridan was pegged at $45 million and the cost of the ramps $72 million.
The City Council endorsed that plan in March 2014, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. lent his support in his state of the borough speech last year. But the state DOT had not moved to adopt the plan as its own.
Since then, the SBRWA has focused its efforts on the state legislature, working with Assembly Member Marcos Crespo and State Senator Jeff Klein. In 2014 and 2015, the State Senate budget proposal allocated $3 million for an Environmental Impact Study for the project, but the item did not make the final state budget.
Now for the first time the state has agreed to fund the project.
“The alliance has really worked with our elected officials to make sure there was a clear ask,” said Veronica Vanterpool of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an alliance member. “I think also one of the clear differences is the speaker of the Assembly hails from the Bronx.”
“To finally have movement and a real investment on a portion of this overall vision is a good day and a really good thing for our neighborhoods,” said Crespo. “It’s not the EIS that we hoped to get, but it keeps that conversation ongoing with dollars that would go towards the efforts that are necessary to get us to that point.”
While some funding for the Sheridan removal has now been secured, the state DOT still has to produce an actual plan. The project was mentioned in a Friday press release from the governor’s office, but a timeline for implementation remains unclear.
The press release also announced $159 million for phase one and $129 million for phase two of the rehabilitation of the Bruckner Expressway viaduct, a portion of which advocates hope will go to building the off-ramps that will provide trucks a direct route from the highway to the Hunts Point market.
The full cost of those ramps exceeds the allocation in the budget, said Crespo, but $2 million has been set aside specifically to study their feasibility.
In a statement released this afternoon, the SBRWA said the state funding is a milestone for the neighborhoods around the Sheridan:
With these funds, the New York State Department of Transportation will advance the conversion of the Sheridan from concept to reality. This project will be transformative for the residents of the South Bronx, with quality of life being first and foremost. The Sheridan completely disconnects the Bronx River — NYC’s only freshwater river — the South Bronx Greenway, Starlight and Concrete Parks from the surrounding neighborhoods. After conversion, residents and visitors will have easier access to these great amenities, similar to the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan today. Conversion is also an economic development project that will reinvigorate the community with new housing, safer streets, less pollution, more jobs, and new commercial opportunities that benefit businesses and residents alike.