Photos: NYC Dep

High-Speed Rail—Empire Corridor Project

When Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, it not only included funding for high-speed passenger rail projects but also served notice that states needed to have plans in place to be eligible for future funding for faster trains. A year later New York launched a study of the Empire Corridor, a 463-mile train line the stretches north from New York City’s Penn Station to Albany and then west to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The goals of the review are to improve reliability and to pave the way for more trains and higher speeds. On stretches between New York City and Albany, passenger trains already reach 110 miles per hour, which is the target speed for as many additional sections of the corridor as possible. Earlier this year the state held public hearings on the environmental impact statement for the project, which includes several alternatives that range from simply upgrading existing tracks to adding new tracks. The environmental review is expected to be completed in the next six to 12 months. At the same time, the state has been using federal high-speed rail funds on various related projects, including upgrading signals and moving them underground between Albany and Poughkeepsie to reduce weather-related delays. Another project in the works is adding a second track between Albany and Poughkeepsie, an area with a lot of freight and passenger rail traffic, in order to ease congestion and reduce delays.
Photos: NYC Dep

Replacement of the Kosciuszko Bridge

The New York State Thruway Authority’s replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge is getting far more attention, but the state Department of Transportation is undertaking its own major bridge replacement: a new Kosciuszko Bridge. The current bridge, which carries 160,00 vehicles over Newtown Creek on New York City’s Brooklyn-Queens Expressway each day, is an aging 75-year-old span that is outdated and inefficient, with steep inclines that slow down trucks in particular. A new cable-stayed eastbound bridge will be built alongside the current span, and will feature wider lanes, new shoulders and less of a steep grade. In May Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the team that would carry out the $555 million project, a price tag that makes it the agency’s largest single contract ever. Preliminary construction work is already under way, and the completion date is set for early 2018. The westbound portion of the bridge will be built at some point in the future. The project also utilizes a design-build project delivery method, which state officials say should save money and expedite construction. The state’s design-build law, which allows for a single contractor to carry out both the design and construction steps of a project, will expire at the end of the year; it will be up to state lawmakers whether to renew it.
Photos: NYC Dep

Interstate 81 Viaduct in Syracuse

Interstate 81 is a key transportation link in Syracuse, carrying 100,000 vehicles a day and serving as a major commuter route through the city. Built in the 1950s and 1960s, the highway is falling into disrepair in places and is seeing more accidents, especially on the raised 1.4-mile viaduct near downtown Syracuse. Following the conclusion of a planning study for the 12-mile corridor, state and federal transportation officials are now conducting an environmental review, and public meetings were held this past summer to gather input. The project’s goals include addressing the viaduct’s structural problems while also adding pedestrian access and improving the look of the interstate’s infrastructure. Residents are split over whether to repair the highway or tear it down and replace it with a boulevard, and it will take years before either option moves forward. Among the options under review are building a new viaduct, replacing it with a tunnel, constructing a below-grade depressed highway or simply running the highway through the city at street level.
Photos: NYC Dep

NY Works

Gov. Andrew Cuomo committed over $1.2 billion to his NY Works program, an effort to accelerate infrastructure projects all over the state. It has resulted in the reconstruction or replacement of more than 120 bridges and the repaving of 2,100 miles of roadways. Most of the projects are done, but a few others, including the Kosciuszko Bridge and Albany’s Patroon Island Bridge project, are still under way.
Photos: NYC Dep

Traffic Safety

The state DOT has taken steps to improve pedestrian safety by undertaking more comprehensive reviews of dangerous roads and highways. In the past the agency would focus on specific locations with a high number of accidents. Now it is studying entire corridors. For example, after a yearlong review, the DOT this month announced planned improvements along Route 5 from Albany to Schenectady, including the use of medians and crosswalk lights to better protect pedestrians, and targeted enforcement and education campaigns.
Photos: NYC Dep

Complete Streets

In 2011 lawmakers passed the Complete Streets Act, which requires state and local agencies to take into account bicyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities when designing capital projects. The legislation envisions roadways with sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks and other safety features.