By David Cruz
With the east Bronx surging with a number of mega–construction projects along the eastern end of the Hutchinson River Parkway corridor, community and elected officials wonder if the major roadway can withstand the influx of traffic.
Two malls, a golf course, 911 call center, hospital and hotel projects will impact traffic along the grassy three-lane parkway.
The Department of City Planning is now answering any worries, drafting a study with help from a steering committee set to meet April 29.
Regular public meetings are expected later throughout the year.
In a letter to stakeholders, including Councilman Jimmy Vacca and local Community Board 10, DCP said it intends to ease the impending traffic burden on or along the parkway, soliciting ideas from stakeholders.
But Vacca, who also chairs the Council’s transportation committee, says traffic’s been building for years.
“We are now experiencing backups in the Bronx, and I think it’s going to get worse,” said Vacca, who has been pressing the city since 2010 for a traffic control plan.
Some decongestion meaures have taken place near the Hutch Metro Center campus – future homes to the Marriott Residence Inn, 911 call center and Montefiore Medical Hospital – but Vacca sees it as minimal, a bandaid that doesn’t fully address the problem.
One of the major traffic nightmares runs along the Waters Place stretch towards the Hutch Metro Center, home to hundreds of workers. Once the projects are completed, Vacca estimates even more bumper-to-bumper traffic if the issue is not addressed.
“From a neighborhood perspective,” said Vacca, “we have to try and minimize the impact on our neighborhoods.”
John Marano, Community Board 10 chair, sees a new exit into the Hutch Metro Center as a no-brainer.
“You have all these buildings and the only exit is Westchester Square off Waters Place,” said Marano. “It’s ridiculous.”
Marano would also want to see improvements near the Whitestone Multiplex Cinemas, slated for an outlet mall in the coming years.
“There should be an exit into their complex,” said Marano, also calling for an exit ramp off the southbound Hutch heading towards the Bay Plaza Mall extension, a 780,000-square-foot retail store anchored by a Macy’s Department store.
“They have to get creative,” he said, adding the exit idea has been considered since 2001 when Macy’s first thought about coming back to the Bronx.
The idea has already been proposed by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a major supporter of big busisness with a mind for easing clogged highways.
But gridlock concerns may persist even if DCP improves new entrances.
The city now has a plan on the back burner to sell pieces of the Bronx Psychiatric Center to private developers.
“Although I know things won’t be happening tomorrow,” said Vacca, “we now have to push the city to do more, and to do it relatively quickly.”
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383