For decades, late night comedians have joked about being stuck on the Long Island Expressway. It may be a laughing matter to some, but it is no joke to Long Island motorists. Nassau and Suffolk counties rely heavily on cars to carry out their daily life.
Long Island has 2.7 million residents and 2.2 million registered vehicles. That is almost 25 percent of all vehicles in the state. Sadly, most of our parkways were designed as early as the 1920’s and were primarily used to get to park and recreational areas.
Once upon a time, New York State invested heavily in local road construction. Surprisingly, the last massive regional improvement project was in 1991 when the HOV lanes were created for the Long Island Expressway. Currently most of the state dollars spent here are on paving, bridge painting and graffiti removal. As important as those activities are, there is a renewed need to make our road system better through new investment in expansion and rehabilitation of the local roads.
No matter which direction you travel in, the local commute is a monumental headache. The improvement of Route 347 was a breath of fresh air to many residents but all work east of Gibbs Pond Road has stopped and no new funds are budgeted to complete the project. There is no experience more frustrating than to travel on the multi-lane part of the Northern State Parkway, and by the time you reach the Wantagh Parkway, the road narrows down to one-third and we go back to gridlock.
Over many years, transportation planners have failed to recognize that population growth has moved at a rapid pace. The thousands of motorists that use the Sagtikos Parkway are frustrated by the daily jam ups in both the north and south lanes. Adding a single lane on each side could help make the commute more tolerable. The Oakdale merge on Route 27 is another driver nightmare. In the space of 1.5 miles, 16 lanes of the Southern State Parkway and Sunrise Highway collapse into six lanes which make it one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the state.
The Southern State Parkway, which has a long history of tragic accidents, is the same road that master builder Robert Moses created in 1927. Other than the new lighting, it is exactly what Moses planned with no significant improvements.
While Long Island’s unemployment rate is low compared to other regions of the state, it doesn’t accurately reflect the number of highway construction workers who are unemployed. As an example, the shift away from major construction to routine maintenance has left 600 workers of Operating Engineers Local 138 unemployed.
When a new construction project begins, it has a strong ripple effect. It is estimated that one construction job creates three additional indirect jobs in architecture, banking, engineering, insurance and law. Road building is a better job creator than a new position on Wall Street.
The residents of Long Island are grateful that the Cuomo administration has committed to building a new third track on portions of the Long Island Rail Road, but local motorists need the promise of new road construction to make living on Long Island a better experience. At this point in time, there are no new projects on the state drawing board for this bi-county region.
The states’ suburbs are the make or break place for advancing political careers. Now more than ever, Nassau and Suffolk counties need to know that their local highway systems are 21st century arteries. We provide the votes, the tax revenues and now the state has to give us the improvements we need.
Kremer a 23 year veteran of the Legislature is the former Chair of the Assembly Ways & Means Committee and President of Empire Government Strategies. To read the full article on LIBN, click here.
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