Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TRampled! A Tale of Two Ramps

Well, one thing is really good to know. When state DOT finds that ramps are not in the community's interest they get busy to jettison them-even when the ramps in question are their own idea. That's exactly what happened with ramps that the agency planned to build off of the Deegan, and the Mott Haven Herald has the story: "Pummeled by public outcry against a plan to extend the off-ramps on the Major Deegan Expressway, the State Department of Transportation has abandoned the project. Much-needed repairs will be made to the aging roadway over Mott Haven, but the plan to extend the highway’s exit ramps in order to calm the traffic that backs up as cars merge onto Exterior Street is on hold indefinitely, said DOT spokesman Adam Levine."

So this post now becomes a tale of two ramp projects-and the Mott Haven victory demonstrates that state DOT does listen to the voice of the community; and needs to do just that when it considers whether or not to build ramps off the Van Wyck in order to facilitate the Willets Point development. In fact, the Van Wyck ramps need to undergo the same vigorous community review that the ones in the Bronx went through.

As the MH Herald tells us: "Every speaker at a public hearing at Hostos Community College on Nov. 9 denounced the state proposal. Some speakers also expressed concern that efforts to ease congestion would simply attract more cars, and more pollution. Others criticized plans to use eminent domain to seize existing businesses in order to make room for the new ramps. “We need more jobs, more affordable housing, more clean air, not more highway,” said Mychal Johnson, a member of Community Board 1 who initiated a petition campaign against the state plan. “The Deegan should be repaired, but not expanded,” he said in an interview."

So, as WPU continues to present its critique of the city-sponsored Van Wyck ramps to impacted community groups, it is incumbent upon NYSDOT to initiate its own community review process-Flushing, Corona, College Point and all of the surrounding Queens nabes deserve no less.. And the more facts we find out about these ramps-and the faulty report submitted by DOT-the worse they look. Put simply, they are exacerbators not mitigators.

This stark reality is underscored by the impact that the new Flushing Commons development will have on the entire area surrounding the city's proposed Willet Point project. Some of this was brought home in a recent hearing at CB #7. As Queens Crap reports: "The third of CB7’s committee meetings on TDC/Rockefeller Group’s Flushing Commons/Municipal Lot 1 project was held on Thursday, March 11th. The main subject was traffic impact, with parking being the continuing sidebar. DOT and TDC presented a VERY long evening of technobabble, which boiled down to this: there WILL be much more traffic congestion and increased parking problems during construction... and afterwards, forever."

But the issue is even worse because Flushing Commons, being built by TDC, another supporter of the Willets Point boondoggle, is just one of many projects planned for the area: "Now look at the pretty colored bar graph. Forget about details for now. Yellow is the existing high level of traffic. On top of that is red, representing the increased percentage of traffic woes from the fifty -- that's right, fifty -- projects, planned or under construction, that will exist by 2013. Then on top of that is green, showing the additional impact of just Flushing Commons -- up to 25% more, by itself. TDC s techie admitted they couldn’t find much possibility for mitigation."

The significance here-aside from the obvious fact that the community is being literally flushed down the drain by traffic being brought to them by Kermit the Mayor-is that none of this traffic is even factored in by the folks that EDC hired to write its fraudulent ramp report.

As WPU's expert Brian Ketcham tells us: "The Flushing Commons EIS estimates project impacts at 30 intersections in and around Downtown Flushing. It assumes two-thirds of the Willets Point traffic impacts for No Build conditions by simply proportioning the trip assignments from the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS). However, because the FGEIS assumes approximately half the Willets Point traffic would use the Van Wyck ramps, no correction is made for the change reported in the AMR, that just 16% of Willets Point traffic would use the ramps, leaving the rest, about 2,000 car and truck trips in the weekday PM peak hour, to find other routes to gain access to or egress from the Willets Point site. This is a 50% increase in local and nearby expressway traffic that was not accounted for in the AMR or in the EIS for Flushing Commons. Flushing Commons therefore only accounted for approximately a third of Willets Point traffic ultimately assigned to Downtown Flushing."

But Ketcham doesn't stop there-and his critique should wake up all of the gullible electeds that-lemming like-went over the cliff for Willets Point two years ago: "Even with this under counting, the Flushing Commons traffic will gridlock Downtown Flushing. I have attached Figure 20-2 from the Downtown Flushing EIS that shows the huge number of intersections that cannot be mitigated, many of which will suffer breakdown conditions, many severe with average vehicle delay exceeding 200 seconds. Clearly the Willets Point FGEIS is not alone in reporting gridlock conditions in the future with Willets Point ramps in place."

Brian Ketcham has already demonstrated that the ramps are ineffective in improving travel conditions along the Van Wyck Expressway. The AMR reports improved conditions but does not examine, as required by FHWA criteria, conditions on roads providing access to the Willets Point site from surrounding areas especially correcting for the reduction in the number trips expected to be handled by the ramps. Now we have a second report that verifies that conditions in the future will be gridlocked with all the planned development in north-central Queens prepared by the way by the same consulting firm, AKRF that prepared the AMR and the FGEIS.

So where are our friends from Tri-State Transportation Campaign on the Willets Point ramps? Streetsblog was all over the Mott Haven situation. But this group's not alone. Back in 2008, the Environmental Defense Fund and the League of Conservation Voters-at the behest of Claire Shulman's illegal lobbying operation-signed off on a letter of support for Willets Point development saying, "The city's proposal for Willets Point is our best chance to transform a degraded section of New York into an engine of environmentally sensible growth and community development."

Can we ask these environmentalists to retract their support now that we know, and they should know, about the traffic nightmare that this-and other surrounding developments-will create? The new traffic information threatens to expose both EDF and LCV as simply useful idiots of a flim flamming mayoral administration that talks green but then goes about emitting more exhaust fumes than any three Robert Moseses put together.

We'll have more on this fraud later-and on the continued illegal activities of one Claire Shulman. But what is continuing to emerge from all of this is that EDC needs to be stopped in its tracks. It's plans for Willets Point-and the other communities of Queens-is an environmental nightmare in the making; and all of the "sustainable development" fools who bought into this better get buyer's remorse pretty soon; before their environmental pedigree gets forcibly expunged forever.