Monsey May Get a New Exit Off the Thruway


thruwayFor the past several years, some Ramapo officials have been lobbying for a new Thruway exit in their town when the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge is built. Informally known as Exit 14X, it would branch off the Thruway onto Route 59 near Monsey Heights Road, on the border of Monsey and Airmont. It would be about halfway between Exits 14 in Spring Valley and 14B in Airmont. Exit 14A is in between those exits but it connects to Chestnut Ridge before turning into the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey.

The idea behind 14X makes sense: Take cars off congested Route 59 and put them on the Thruway. Also, residents who live in that part of Ramapo would have quicker access to the highway.

“Everybody agrees that we have a big problem,” Montebello Mayor Jeffrey Oppenheim said. “And I think everyone agrees this is the opportunity to put in 14X.”

This is not a new concept.

In 2003, Ramapo in its comprehensive master plan called for an exit to alleviate congestion, town Supervisor Chris St. Lawrence noted.

Reasons were given and information exchanged on Monday night when the Tappan‚ÄąZee Bridge/Interstate 287 corridor project team met for 90 minutes with about 20 state, county, town and village officials in Montebello at the request of Oppenheim.

Airmont Mayor Dennis Kaye for the first time saw an in-depth plan of 14X and was pleased that no private property would be taken to make room for interchanges near Remsen Avenue and Monsey Heights Road, where Route 59 passes over the Thruway.

“Route 59 is the major problem and that would have to be corrected also,” Kaye said Tuesday. “It’s one lane through there and the traffic is extremely heavy.”

Airmont Trustee Ralph Bracco, who owns a diner on Remsen, didn’t believe the location was the right place for a new exit. He said it wasn’t right to create traffic jams in Monsey in order alleviate bottlenecks at chokepoints in Airmont and Spring Valley.

What the alignment will be for high-speed buses and commuter trains, which are part of future plans, is another consideration.

Michael Anderson, leader of the bridge/I-287 project team, called the exit “fairly problematic” due to a number of issues, including the impact on traffic at other interchanges, the diversion of trucks onto Route 59 to avoid the Spring Valley tolls and the redesigning of 59, which would involve the state Department of Transportation.

“That’s the potential domino effect,” he said. “We have to remember what our project focus is.”

The project team has been meeting with municipalities about their issues and concerns as it moves ahead with the $16 billion mega-project. On Thursday, it will meet with Airmont officials.

“This project cannot be viewed as the be-all-and-end-all of traffic issues in Rockland County. That’s asking too much,” Anderson said.

Chava Goldstein, a New Hempstead resident who drives on that part of Route 59 daily, said she liked the idea but only at the right price.

“It would be very convenient to have another” exit, Goldstein said. “I don’t know if it pays in the long run. … I don’t know how much it costs to build an exit.”

Should 14X be approved by the Federal Highway Administration – there’s no guarantee – it wouldn’t open until 2017, as would the bridge.

Oppenheim said not only was 14X needed to accommodate the expected population growth during the next 20 years, but it also would probably increase property values.

Oppenheim said those at the meeting agreed “the complex legal labyrinth required to have an exit placed on the Thruway was so expensive and demanding that it is unlikely that such an exit would ever be built if it were not … in the Tappan Zee plan.”

{Times Herald Record/ Newscenter}