BY KATHY KAHN
On Wednesday, November 29, Governor Andrew Cuomo came to IBEW Local 363 in the Village of Harriman to announce that a complete redesign of the crossroads is to begin in early 2018 and be completed within five years at a cost of $150 million and is expected to be completed within five years
If you live, work or play in the mid-Hudson, getting stuck in a bottleneck of traffic by Woodbury Common Premium Outlets has become the norm rather than the exception.
Since the outdoor shopping mall opened nearly a quarter-century ago in Orange County’s Town of Woodbury, it has become one of the top ten tourist attractions in New York State. 13 million people a year visit the more than 220 stores and a variety of restaurants and other attractions designed for the all-day shopper.
For others trying to get avoid the traffic near Woodbury Common, it’s a strategic nightmare to navigate around the intersection where three major roads-NYS Thruway, Route 17 and Route 32- converge, often backing up in a massive traffic jam. The Thruway toll booth also adds to the frustration of getting to your destination.
Work is expected to be completed by 2024, four years ahead of the original schedule. There have been dozens of meetings held between residents, business owners and the Department of Transportation over the past several years to try to come up with the best solution to ease traffic. “Like the new Tappan Zee Bridge, we plan to get this project done on time, under budget and will use union labor to get the work done,” said Cuomo.
The project will be built on a design/build basis, which Cuomo said helps move the project along faster. “Design/Build lets us start work immediately and then ‘tweak’ what needs to be done as work progresses,” said Cuomo.
A new underpass under Route 32, a new access point for the Outlet shops and a 200-space park and ride lot are among the changes coming. The plan to change the current traffic pattern to a “diverging diamond interchange” was completed in Monroe County five years ago, speeding up traffic flow and reducing accidents. This will be the second of such designs put to use in the state. The DOT will also replace the bridge on Route 32, raising the height in anticipation of the changeover of Route 17 to Interstate 86.
NYS Senator Bill Larkin praised the project, which he said was long overdue. “Woodbury Common is critical to the economy and prosperity of the entire Hudson Valley, and I applaud Governor Cuomo for his commitment to this vital infrastructure that will transform the area into a state-of-the-art hub.”
Al Samuels, President of the Rockland Business Association, said while Rockland will not be directly helped by improvements at Exit 16, “The real benefit is that the project means five years of work for the trades in the region and that includes our Rockland trades. For people who live in here and work at Woodbury Common, it will mean an easier way to get in and out of work.”
The DOT has also included sidewalks and a bike path, as well as an additional 200-car parking lot that will have battery charging stations for vehicles. Cashless toll booths for Exit 16 are also included, with Cuomo pointing out that it not only catches people who don’t pay their toll but also “red flags” license plates that are on the NYS Police’s list.” State Police are stationed at every cashless toll, and the cameras will pick up licenses that, for one reason or another, are on the ‘watch’ list, keeping travelers and visitors safer.