The Journal News reports: The stretch of Route 59 near the Palisades Center mall will become one giant construction zone next year. And for much of 2011, too.
That’s what happens when the state Department of Transportation plans a $30 million makeover of Route 59 from Sickletown Road to Route 303 in West Nyack. It plans to replace five bridges, add a traffic lane, build sidewalks and raise the state road by 18 inches along a section just 1.1 miles long.
Brian Doherty, the project manager, said that starting in the spring, the two lanes of traffic in both directions will be limited to one lane in each direction from the light at the ShopRite supermarket (across Route 59 from the mall) to Sickletown Road.
Traffic will be shifted to the eastbound lanes of Route 59, allowing construction crews to start work on the westbound part of the road.
Route 59 is the busiest road in Rockland, and that particular section of it is heavily used. It not only serves the mall and two grocery stores, but drivers use it to access Route 303, the New York State Thruway and the river villages. About 36,000 cars and trucks use that corridor daily, Doherty said.
“There will be backups, there’s no question about that,” he said last week. “But there’s no other way to do it.”
Route 59 will return to four lanes – two in each direction – by the fall, in time for the holiday shopping season. In spring 2011, the eastbound lanes will be closed and traffic diverted to the other side of Route 59 until fall 2011, when the work is expected to be completed.
David Chandler, who drives Route 59 from his Nanuet home to his job at Stop & Shop in West Nyack, supported the project but worried about traffic congestion.
“It could cause a lot of problems depending on how they handle it,” Chandler said recently.
Minor drainage work will soon begin on Route 59, and could result in daytime lane closings, but there will be no permanent shifting of traffic until next year.
The project, years in the planning, has several components, but its primary focus is repairing aging, deteriorating bridges, most built in the 1950s but one that has been around since 1929.
A few years ago, the project was expected to cost $20 million, but construction costs have spiked. The current price tag is $29.6 million, with about $20 million going toward bridge repairs.
The bridges that carry Route 59 over Sickletown Road, Western Highway (technically, it has two distinct spans) and the CSX railroad tracks will be replaced. With the changes, the new Western Highway and CSX bridges will meet or exceed current vertical clearance standards – 14 feet for highways and 22 feet for railroads.
The foundation of the bridge that runs over the Hackensack River is in good shape, Doherty said, so only its support beams will be upgraded.
As for Route 59 itself, the contractor hired by the DOT – A. Servidone Inc./B. Anthony Construction Corp. of Castleton, N.Y. – will build a new lane and shoulder along eastbound Route 59 between the entrance ramp from Sickletown Road and Doescher Avenue.
That will give drivers trying to get on Route 59 and those trying to exit on Doescher more room to navigate.
Now “you have to force yourself into the traffic lane onto 59 in a short distance,” Doherty said.
Over the years, Route 59, the Palisades Center and surrounding buildings have been sinking in the area of the Hackensack River. The area is also prone to flooding, occasionally severe.
Local residents and Clarkstown officials had hoped the DOT would do additional drainage work in the area, such as increasing the size of the pipes underneath the highway, but Doherty said this was a bridge and road improvement project.
To that end, Route 59 will be raised by 18 inches from the ShopRite to the mall’s flyover bridge, a distance of 800 feet.
“It pretty much gets back to where (Route 59) used to be” about 20 years ago, Doherty said.
Clarkstown Supervisor Alexander Gromack said even though 18 inches doesn’t sound like a lot, it should aid drainage.
“We had hoped they would do more. We thought it was an opportunity,” Gromack said. “But that will certainly help with some of the flooding down by the mall.”
Finally, sidewalks will be built on the south side of Route 59 from the Route 303 ramp to the traffic signal at the ShopRite driveway as well as on the north side of Route 59 from the ShopRite driveway to the West Nyack Road ramp.
New pedestrian crossing signals, pavement markings and landscaping also will be added by the ShopRite.