Fear traffic mess with growth

Concerns continue to grow about new development in and the around east Bronx major roadways causing even more traffic jams.

Development concentrated in two corridors of roads on and around I-95 from the Bruckner Interchange & Unionport Bridge to Co-op City, and along the Hutch from the Whitestone Bridge to Co-op City & Pelham Bay Park has locals concerned that lack of planning might leave already clogged roads practically impassable when the malls and buildings open.

Among the new area projects opening soon:

•An outlet mall at the Whitestone Cinema site.

•A Target store and new mall near the Hutch and Brush Avenue.

•A Macy’s and major indoor shopping mall at Bay Plaza in Co-op City.

•Continued expansion of the Hutchinson Metro Center, including a new hotel.

•The city’s 911 Call Center building at the Hutch and Pelham Parkway.

Community Board 10 already commissioned its own traffic study calling for a slip ramp onto the Brucnker Expressway, better signage, and other improvements to deal with all the new construction. It is concerned that many of the projects are close to opening, with no new infrastructure built.

“We have traffic issues right now,” said CB 10 chairman John Marano. “We are all for this new development, but feel that infrastructure should be part of this revitalization and economic growth. Why should the people shopping at these locations, and the people living here, have to feel the pain of congestion? We are the people who they are making money off of.”

“You go to other places in this country, and you put up a mall, and you have to build on-ramps and off-ramps,” said community leader Bob Bieder. “But you come to the Bronx, and you don’t have to do that. People seem to forget that this a marketplace where they want to do business.”

Among Bieder’s suggestions:

•Building another entrance and/or exit directly into both the Hutchinson Metro Center and Bay Plaza to divert traffic from local streets.

•An entrance onto I-95 near St. Joseph’s Way – a low cost “slip-ramp” – that would keep truck traffic off the Bruckner service road in residential and commercial areas.

•A second bridge to accommodate the overburdened Unionport Bridge, most likely at Lafayette Avenue.

•Better timing of traffic lights on major streets to make for easier traffic flow around the new malls.

Bieder said that given the pace that the state and city moves, and the studies that they have to conduct, he predicts little additional infrastructure built for five to ten years, after a traffic crisis.

Business and community leader James McQuade said that something needs to be done soon at a bottleneck at I-95 near Pelham Parkway, where six lanes merge into three. This was called the “biggest bottleneck in the nation,” he said, and the city, state, and federal governments all need to be involved. “You need the best of the best for this mess.”

Department of Transportation spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said “DOT is reviewing the planned projects, has met with developers and is reviewing their recommendations for potential traffic improvements.

“The agency has also been in touch with local elected officials and has received the general recommendations from Community Board 10…and is looking into potential enhancements in the area, including changes to signal timing.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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