By Arthur H. Gunther III
Motorists and landowners in the area of the three-year West Nyack bridge replacement project should see its completion by fall, but the $31 million venture, however pretty it looks, will leave taxpayers and others wanting.
Yes, this project was necessary. The original 1920s West Nyack bridges on what was then two-lane Old Nyack Turnpike (Route 59) and the newer crossings added in the late 1950s when a more direct route was placed to Nanuet were overdue for replacement. However, given the area’s flooding and traffic problems, more should have been done:
• My prediction is that flooding in front of Dunkin’ Donuts along the Hackensack River will not be alleviated, and the road will continue to sink in this bottomless marsh despite elevation, in the latest attempt to fix a problem that has lasted into its third century. Route 59 should have been rerouted to higher ground when the Palisades Center mall was built, with developers helping pay for that. The mall ring road that was constructed and which includes Thruway traffic is dangerous, with poor sight lines and flooding in spots. A more comprehensive and enlightened mall road plan, incorporating a diverted Route 59, could have solved and prevented a multitude of problems. The issue could have been revisited when the Route 59 bridge project was being considered, especially since the mall road, despite promises, has not been reconfigured.
• Why wasn’t the “dog leg” that is Doscher Avenue, connecting Route 59 east to Western Highway, eliminated, as originally suggested? It continues to carry heavy refuse trucking to the nearby collection center on Western Highway. And other trucks are sent to what is main street, West Nyack (West Nyack Road), endangering motorists, pedestrians and shoppers and reducing the quality of life. Ramps should have been provided to and from the new Route 59 overpasses to Western Highway, though, in truth the better solution remains a dedicated road from the collection center to Route 303, thereby eliminating all such trucking on Western Highway.
• New, built-up asphalt pavement on the westbound side of Route 59 will, I suggest, soon buckle and become rutted under the weight of heavy trucking and high summer temperatures. That has already happened on the westbound hill from Crossfield Avenue. Cement should have been used on the bridge approaches. After all, the original cement Route 59 lasted more than five decades before asphalt was applied.
• A redesign of the light at the intersection of Route 59, ShopRite and the mall remains necessary. Wait time there is already ridiculous.
The Route 59 bridge reconstruction project, including new overpasses for Sickletown Road, Western Highway, the CSX (West Shore) rail line and the Hackensack River, was a long time coming. But the wait should have been longer to accommodate a real fix for total area flooding from the Hackensack, which has worsened in recent storms. Additional flooding woes in the Hackensack basin, from Sickletown Road east, will impact the new construction and should have been considered in the overall plan, including rerouting Route 59 to higher ground at the mall and reconfiguring the ring road at the same time. And it should have addressed the onerous 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. all-day trucking on Western Highway, which impacts West Nyack, Blauvelt, Orangeburg and Tappan.
Pretty these new bridges will be, and kudos to the construction crews for that. But adding a smart new face to a tired old body will not do. This will be a long dance.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y.