A key stretch of highway in the South Bronx could undergo massive changes in the coming years, though there are still some uncertainties with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1.8 billion plan to redesign the Sheridan Expressway. In 2017, Cuomo announced the plan to reduce diesel truck traffic on local roads in the Hunts Point neighborhood and increase pedestrian access to the Bronx River and its neighboring parks, but community groups have fought against parts of his proposal.
Since that initial announcement, the project has been split into two parts. The first phase, which received final approval from the federal government this month, is the Arthur Sheridan Enhancement Project. This is the $75 million plan to turn the Sheridan Expressway – which cuts off several communities from the river – into a boulevard with multiple points of pedestrian access to Starlight Park and the Bronx River. Construction on the Sheridan is scheduled to break ground this month and finish in the fall of 2019.
The second phase is the Hunts Point Interstate Access Improvement Project, which, if approved, is estimated to cost $1.7 billion and be completed in 2025. This project would redesign the flow of truck traffic by adding four points of access to the Bruckner Expressway and Sheridan Boulevard via Edgewater Road. The plan has drawn considerable opposition from several community groups, who argue it would decrease access to the river and parks next to Edgewater Road and increase pollution in an area they say has served as important community space for local youth.
Several of these community groups formed the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, which has advocated for an alternative plan that would place ramps to the Bruckner Expressway farther from residential areas. Officials from the state Transportation Department, however, have said the alternative plan would interfere with Amtrak and CSX railroad lines and would be more expensive.
Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, whose district includes Hunts Point, said he would have supported the alternative plan, but understood that it presented challenges including a greater cost, a longer timeline and legal issues with Amtrak. Crespo said the current plan ultimately meets the community’s priorities of increasing access to public parks and improving air quality. “While a number of proposals and ideas had been put forward for many, many years, our community deserves action and results,” he said. “I feel very proud in having played a role in making sure that we were able to bring that commitment, and that we were able to get the governor to the table.”
Approval for the project ultimately comes down to the Federal Highway Administration, which has already signed off on the state’s draft scope of the project’s second phase but has yet to approve the necessary final environmental impact statement.