NYSDOT Previews Major Route 17 Exit Project; Updates on Possible Third Lane Expansion Effort
John Jordan | June 12, 2023
TOWN OF WALLKILL—Officials with the New York State Department of Transportation held a public hearing here on June 1 to update the public on its re-evaluation of planned improvements to Exit 122 on Route 17. They also provided an update on the environmental review of the possible expansion of sections of the roadway with a third lane in each direction from Harriman to Monticello.
The takeaway from their presentation is that there will be considerable road work beginning early next year at Exit 122 of Route 17 and on sections of the highway in late 2025 or early 2026 and for years thereafter, perhaps as far out as 2029 or 2030, as NYSDOT follows through on a $1-billion commitment for Route 17 improvements first announced by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul in April 2022. The total value of the projects outlined by NYSDOT officials at Exit 122 and on three major projects to be let in 2026 approach that $1-billion figure.
Mark Tiano, PE, NYSDOT Regional Design engineer and Mark Kruk, NYSDOT Project Manager, said that the second phase involving improvements to the eastern half of Exit 122 interchange is currently valued at between $75 million to $85 million. While the final design has not been completed as yet, NYSDOT also intends to have the project complete the widening of Route 17 over the Wallkill River. The first phase of the Exit 122 improvement project was launched in the early 2000s and construction on the western half of the Exit 122 interchange was completed in 2015.
Kruk added, “We are currently doing a reevaluation of the 2008 Environmental Impact Statement. Once we complete the reevaluation then we are going to move into the final design. We will be done with the final design by the end of the year.”
He predicted that the second phase of the Exit 122 project will go out to bid in the spring of 2024 with construction commencing immediately thereafter, most likely in the summer of 2024. Kruk said he expects completion of that project by the end of 2025.
Among some of the key improvements planned will be to relocate the exit ramp to across from the Park and Ride on Crystal Run Road and have the new exit ramp split to allow for direct entrance to I-84. In addition, the bridge over the Wallkill River at the approach to the exit will be widened to allow for increased deceleration in conformance with federal interstate standards as part of an effort to eventually convert Route 17 into Interstate 86. The project will feature a tunnel to improve traffic flow as well as landscaping of the area around the existing Exit 122 ramp.
Expansion of Route 17
In terms of the much more significant Route 17 expansion project, Kruk related that preliminary work began earlier this year in preparation for the official launch of an Environmental Impact review on what is projected to be $1 billion worth of improvements in the coming years. A Notice of Intent is expected to be released this fall on the beginning of the environmental review in compliance with federal NEPA regulations since the project will be receiving federal transportation funding. NYSDOT began gathering data for that review earlier this year, which will update a PEL (Planning and Environmental Linkage) study on the need for the Route 17 expansion (third lane) project released in late 2021.
He explained that while the PEL study included some environmental data, NYSDOT, along with consulting firm WSP USA, will be undertaking new traffic studies, etc. during the Environmental Impact review. Kruk expects a Record of Decision on the Environmental Review and the scope of the potential roadway expansion project in the fall of 2025. WSP USA is also one of the consulting firms working on the Exit 122 phase two project.
“The plan is, once we have a Record of Decision with the EIS, is to move forward with three Design-Build projects hopefully immediately thereafter,” Kruk said.
Work on those three projects would likely commence in either late 2025 or early 2026, coinciding with the conclusion of work on the second phase of the Exit 122 job. He said that the project worth for each of those three projects could be anywhere from $250 million to $300 million each.
Kruk did not specify what those three Design-Build projects might entail or their locations. “We are looking at alternatives,” Mr. Kruk said. “It is not definite it is going to be an expansion. We are looking at where the expansion works and where it doesn’t work. So, we are looking at all those different alternatives.”
Daniel Ortega, community affairs director, Operating Engineers Local 835 Labor-Management Fund and a member of the 17-Forward-86 coalition that has been advocating for years in favor of the Route 17 expansion, said: “We are very grateful for the governor’s commitment to the Hudson Valley where she put $1 billion in her budget last year to make sure that the Route 17 project will move forward with three lanes for Orange and Sullivan counties.” Ortega, who attended the Exit 122 public hearing, added, “We are working with DOT and have been working with them over the years to make sure things are moving forward.”
Ortega said that the planned improvements to the Exit 122 (Crystal Run Road) is part of NYSDOT’s commitment to improve Route 17 and is a precursor to the large-scale improvements to the roadway in the coming years.
Maureen Halahan, co-founder of the 17-Forward-86 coalition, said, “Projects of this caliber take years to plan and execute and while stakeholders have been waiting for a long time, it is heartening to see that the state is focused on laying out the plan to complete this project in the upcoming years.” Ms. Halahan, who is President and CEO of The Orange County Partnership, added, “Our 17-Forward-86 coalition has been the driver since inception and clearly the forward motion is a result of everyone working together with the state. The proof is in the first launch as the bid for the Exit 122 project will be let early next year and the work will begin immediately after. The governor’s commitment to this project has been steadfast. Everyone is working in tandem to see these vital projects on Route 17 break ground.”
Heather M. Pillsworth, Public Information Officer for NYSDOT’s Region 8, said that there will be a website specific to Route 17 that will include all information pertaining to not only the second phase of the Exit 122 project but the overall improvements to the roadway. The website should be going live shortly, she noted.