“Last Mile” Construction Begins in Rye’s Backyard
By Tom McDermott
On August 20, the NYS Thruway Authority announced that construction began on the long-awaited $135 million Last Mile project.
The project, which was previously scheduled to begin in spring 2017 and be completed in fall 2020, is now projected to be completed sometime in 2021. ECCO III Enterprises of Yonkers is the contractor for the project which includes the following main components:
- Realign the Midland Avenue northbound ramp to connect directly to I-95 North.
- Replace and realign I-287 eastbound to I-95 northbound ramp bridge.
- Replace the Grace Church Street Bridge over I-95.
- Rehabilitate the Boston Post Road, Purchase Street, Byram River, and Blind Brook culvert bridges.
- Widen I-95 southbound, providing a 2-lane exit ramp to I-287 West.
The project is the last piece of a 15-mile Thruway upgrade, with all three lanes of I-95 in both directions being reconstructed. It includes work, much of it to be done at night, from Exit 22 to the Connecticut border, and promises many traffic and safety improvements and additional sound/sight barriers. A project map and alerts can be found at www.thruway.ny.gov/oursystem/last-mile/index.html. Real time traffic information can be accessed through the Thruway Authority’s mobile app for Apple and Android devices.
Preliminary work began during the week of September 3, with construction of temporary lanes on I-287 eastbound, causing more than the usual morning rush hour backups. A spokesperson for the Thruway Authority said that it is working with the contractor to develop a schedule for each phase of the project.
Perhaps most significantly for Rye, will be the closing of the Midland Avenue I-95 northbound ramp, which will require motorists to use either the Playland Parkway or Byram northbound entrances to I-95. On the plus side, the plan eliminates the current hazardous merge into speeding, oncoming traffic from I-287 before entering I-95 N from poorly designed access lanes. Detouring traffic from the Midland ramp, however, may very well cause increased traffic southbound on Midland Avenue, past Midland School during peak drop-off and pick-up times, in order for motorists to reach Playland Parkway’s I-95 North entrance.
The Thruway Authority could not say when the ramp would be closed.
The School District raised this issue with the Thruway Authority during planning stages some time ago, and a spokesperson for the authority this week stated that the Authority had worked very closely with all impacted municipalities and school districts at many levels to address these kinds of issues. But the Authority has not yet identified the solution to the possible Midland Avenue traffic increase. According to the Thruway Authority, traffic information, including closings and detours, will be broadcast on Variable Message Signs (VMS) in addition to its website and app.
As of September 5, City Manager Marcus Serrano said that he had not received any additional information regarding the start of the project beyond an August 27 Thruway Authority press release.
The Last Mile project comes at a potentially busy time for the interchange area slated for improvement. The proposed bridge or tunnel to Long Island has aimed at Rye and Port Chester, has been put on the shelf for now. But, the stalled Starwood development at the old United Hospital site could be revived during the next three years if Starwood finds a buyer for the property and the approved development rights. And, Rye Country Day School may develop land across from its campus for recreational use, if a shared use agreement can be worked out with the City of Rye.
The Last Mile is shaping up to be a doozy.