Key step to Route 17 enhancement underway

The Quickway. The benefits of converting Route 17 into an interstate include relieving road congestion, improving safety, fueling growth in the region and improving mobility and travel options.

| 26 Jul 2023 | 11:17

A study to determine the potential environmental impacts from the planned Route 17/Interstate 86 enhancement project is ongoing and represents a key final step before major construction can begin, according to officials with the New York State Department of Transportation.

“We have started the environmental impact statement for the whole corridor, which is scheduled to be completed in the middle of 2025,” said New York State Department of Transportation Project Manager Mark Kruk. “Once we have that determination, we can move forward with construction projects to bring Route 17 up to interstate standards with a tentative end date of 2029.”

For years, the state has been looking at expanding Route 17 to such an extent that it qualifies for interstate status, meaning that Route 17 would become Interstate 86. In fact, there are already “Future Interstate 86” signs on Route 17.

Kruk said the benefits of converting Route 17 into an interstate include relieving road congestion, improving safety, fueling growth in the region and improving multimodal mobility and travel options.

East end traffic versus west end traffic

“The determination of the environmental impact statement will be key in determining how communities along the corridor will be affected and what construction projects we undertake,” he said. “There is also traffic data that we are gathering that will play a role. What works on the eastern end may not be needed on the western end, and so on.”

For example, Kruk said that based upon traffic and economic growth, especially closer to Woodbury, he fully expects a third-lane solution from Woodbury to Goshen. From Goshen westward to the Sullivan County line, he said there may be something like a hybrid solution in the form of an on-demand third lane.

Once the environmental aspect of the project is complete, Kruk said there is about $1 billion in state funds earmarked for contracts for the project.

Upon completion of the project, which, again, is not expected until 2029 or so, it would be up to the Federal Highway Administration to grant Interstate status.

“Interstate standards look at things such as interchange spacing, length of acceleration lanes, lane and shoulder width, stopping space, vertical and horizontal sight lines, numerous design standards and more,” Kruk said.

Exit 122 interchange

A component that Kruk hopes begins next spring is finalizing construction of the exit 122 interchange in Goshen, the first phase of which was completed in 2015.

“We are anticipating only minor traffic disruptions as most of that work will be done off of the roadway,” Kruk said of the Goshen interchange. “We are widening the Route 17 bridge over the Wallkill, installing new ramps. The traffic impacts to Crystal Run Road and the interchange in general will be minimal.”

The view from Woodbury

Kruk pointed to the completion of the interchange at Woodbury as an example of improved traffic. Village of Woodbury Mayor Andrew Giacomazza agrees.

“The interchange seems to have resulted in less traffic which is a remarkable improvement over past traffic issues here in Woodbury,” Giacomazza said. “We still have backups during high travel days but they are the rarity, which is good news. The interchange has worked and if a third lane on Route 17 can alleviate traffic on that road on a Friday night for people headed upstate than I am for it.”

The view from Chester

Other local officials are also largely in favor of the project’s impact on traffic via the installation of a third lane, but concerns remain.

“I have issues with them taking away exit 127, the Sugarloaf/Warwick exit, and replacing it with a clover leaf interchange at Oxford Road,” said Chester Supervisor Robert Valentine, who is otherwise in favor of the overall project. “Camp LaGuardia is over there and may soon be sold and developed and the feeder roads from Oxford are not up to par, in my opinion.”

Goshen Supervisor Joseph Betro said he supports the project but has concerns about a lack of eastbound options at exit 123.

The need for an EIS

Anthony Cardone, supervisor of Monroe, wants Kruk and company to do their due diligence.

“I guess this project is needed in terms of progress,” Cardone said. “Before anything is done, I want to get a look at the results of the environmental impact statement.”

Kruk said that there will be plenty of time for elected officials and members of the public to be heard on a whole host of issues.

“We will be reengaging the public and elected officials and their comments and concerns will be documented as part of the environmental impact statement process,” Kruk said. “There will be meetings with officials and open houses for the public as we move forward.”