DOT Unveils Route 17 Timeline For Reviews, Bidding, Start Dates

By JOHN JORDAN – June 22, 2023

TOWN OF WALLKILL, NY—Officials with the New York State Department of Transportation held a public hearing on June 1 at Wallkill Town Hall to update the public on its re-evaluation of planned improvements to Exit 122 on Route 17.

NYSDOT also provided updates on the environmental review of the possible expansion of sections of the roadway that may include a third lane in each direction from Harriman in Orange County to Monticello in Sullivan County.

All signs point to considerable project work beginning mid-2024 at Exit 122 of Route 17 and more work on sections of the highway in late- 2025/early-2026. Construction is likely to extend through 2029 or 2030. The total value of projects outlined by NYSDOT officials at Exit 122 and on three major projects to be let in 2026 approach the $1-billion price tag first announced by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul in April 2022.

Mark Tiano, PE, NYSDOT regional design engineer, and Mark Kruk, NYSDOT project manager, told CONSTRUCTION NEWS that the second phase involving improvements to the eastern half of Exit 122 interchange is currently valued at between $75 million to $85 million. While the final design has not yet been completed, NYSDOT also intends to have the project complete the widening of Route 17 over the Wallkill River. The first phase of the Exit 122 improvement project was launched in the early 2000s, and construction on the western half of the Exit 122 interchange was completed in 2015.

Mr. Kruk told CONSTRUCTION NEWS at the hearing, “We are currently doing a re-evaluation of the 2008 Environmental Impact Statement. Once we complete the re-evaluation, we are going to move into the final design, which will be done with the final design by the end of the year (2023).”

Once DOT has a Record of Decision with the EIS on the overall Roue 17 expansion, the plan “is to move forward with three design-build projects hopefully immediately thereafter,” Mr. Kruk stated. He predicted that the second phase of the Exit 122 project will go out to bid in the spring of 2024, with construction commencing soon after–most likely in the summer of 2024. Mr. Kruk said he expects project completion in late 2025.

Among some of the key improvements planned will be to relocate the exit ramp to across from the Park and Ride on Crystal Run Road, and construct a new exit ramp split to allow for direct entrance onto I-84. In addition, the bridge over the Wallkill River at the approach to the exit will be widened to allow for increased deceleration to meet federal interstate standards as part of the effort to eventually convert Route 17 into Interstate 86. The project will feature a tunnel to improve traffic flow as well as landscaping of the area around the existing Exit 122 ramp.

Expansion of Route 17

In terms of the much more significant Route 17 expansion project, Mr. Kruk related that preliminary work began earlier this year in preparation for the official launch of an Environmental Impact review on what is projected to be $1 billion worth of improvements in the coming years. A Notice of Intent is expected to be released this fall on the beginning of the environmental review in compliance with federal NEPA regulations because the project will be receiving federal transportation funding. NYSDOT began gathering data for that review earlier this year, which will update a PEL study, the Planning and Environmental Linkage analysis, on the need for the Route 17 expansion (third lane) project released in late 2021.

He explained that while the PEL study included some environmental data, NYSDOT, along with consulting firm WSP USA, will be undertaking new traffic studies during the environmental impact review. Mr. Kruk expects a Record of Decision on the Environmental Review and the scope of the potential roadway expansion project in the fall of 2025. WSP USA is also a consultant on the Exit 122 phase two project.

“Once we have a Record of Decision with the EIS, the plan is to move forward with three Design-Build projects, hopefully immediately thereafter,” Mr. Kruk said.

Work on those three projects would likely commence in either late 2025 or early 2026, coinciding with the conclusion of work on the second phase of the Exit 122 job. He said the value for each of those three projects could be anywhere from $250 million to $300 million each.

Mr. Kruk did not specify what those three Design-Build projects might entail or their locations. “We are looking at alternatives,” Mr. Kruk said. “It is not definite it is going to be an expansion. We are looking at where the expansion works and where it doesn’t work. So, we are looking at all those different alternatives.”

Daniel Ortega, community affairs director of the Operating Engineers Local 835 Labor-Management Fund and a member of the 17-Forward-86 coalition, which has been advocating for years in favor of the Route 17 expansion, told CONSTRUCTION NEWS: “We are very grateful for the governor’s commitment to the Hudson Valley where she put $1 billion in her budget last year to make sure that the Route 17 project will move forward with three lanes for Orange and Sullivan counties.” Mr. Ortega, who attended the Exit 122 public hearing, added, “We are working with DOT and have been working with them over the years to make sure things are moving forward.”

Mr. Ortega said the planned improvements to Exit 122 (Crystal Run Road) is part of NYSDOT’s commitment to improve Route 17 and is a precursor to the large-scale improvements to the roadway in the coming years.

“We are looking forward to having all of our union members working on this project and they (NYSDOT) are committed to that,” he noted.

Heather M. Pillsworth, the public information officer for NYSDOT’s Region 8, said there will be a website specific to Route 17 to include all information pertaining to the second phase of the Exit 122 project as well as overall improvements to the roadway. The website should be going live shortly, she noted.

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