NYSDOT Updates Public on Progress On Rte. 17/I-86 Conversion/Exit 122 Job

By JOHN JORDAN – January 25, 2024

TOWN OF WALLKILL, NY—The New York State Department of Transportation hosted public information sessions on Jan. 17 at the Town of Wallkill Community Center and provided updates on the planned massive Route 17 conversion project to I-86, as well as the impending improvement project at the westbound exit 122 on Route 17.

NYSDOT officials answered questions in separate afternoon and evening sessions from the general public and featured presentations on both the approval process and construction timetables for both the “NYS Route 17 Mobility & Access Improvements Project” that could entail the construction of a third lane in each direction on Route 17 in sections of Orange and Sullivan counties, as well as the planned Stage II improvements to Exit 122 at Crystal Run Road in the Town of Wallkill in Orange County.

SOURCE: New York State Department of Transportation

The first project to move forward will be the improvements to the westbound exit 122 on Route 17, which NYSDOT Project Manager Mark Kruk estimated would cost between $75 million to $85 million. He said that the project will likely go out to bid around August of this year with work on the project to begin shortly thereafter. He estimated the job will take about two years to complete. Stage I of the Exit 122 interchange upgrade was completed in 2015.

In terms of the “NYS Route 17 Mobility & Access Improvements Project,” it appears the first shovel in the ground on this project—geared to making improvements to have Route 17 become eligible for federal interstate status and be converted to I-86—will be potentially in early 2026.

The project involves the planned upgrade of a 30-mile stretch of State Route 17 between Exit 113 in Wurtsboro in Sullivan County, and Interstate 87 in Orange County, to interstate standards. The project will improve congestion-related travel times and speeds, while addressing features of the corridor that currently do not meet federal Interstate standards.

Mr. Kruk of NYSDOT told CONSTRUCTION NEWS that the project is in the early stages of the environmental review process. Gov. Kathy Hochul has committed a total of $1 billion for the conversion of Route 17 to I-86. NYSDOT plans to send out a Notice of Intent to the Federal Highway Administration, which will be providing funding for the project, by the winter of this year. The department will also engage in scoping and public scoping sessions in the winter of this year as well and release a project scoping report this spring.

The DOT estimates it will begin preparation of a Draft Design Report and Draft Environmental Impact Statement in the summer of this year to be completed by the spring of 2025. At that time NYSDOT plans to release the Draft Design Report and Draft Environmental Impact Statement and hold a public hearing and seek public comment on those reports. In the Fall of 2025 NYSDOT expects to prepare and issue a Final Design Report/Final Environmental Impact Statement and register a Record of Decision on the overall project in the fall or by the end of 2025. If those timelines are achieved, work on the project could begin in 2026.

A Route 17 Planning and Environmental Linkage Study released in November 2021 recommended that the state move forward with a General Use Third Lane in each direction on Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties that—if built as one major project—could cost anywhere from $650 million to $1.27 billion to complete. Mr. Kruk noted that the PEL study also recommended that once a Record of Decision is finalized, NYSDOT would solicit bids on three projects along the 30-mile corridor each valued at between $300 million to $350 million.

Mr. Kruk said that “everything is on the table” as NYSDOT embarks on the environmental review that will entail such factors as: environmental and economic impacts, as well as social needs and public and agency input. Therefore, the overall Route 17 improvement project could be launched with less or more than three projects, he noted.

“That was just a planning study and looked at some things conceptually,” Mr. Kruk said. “Now, we are moving into the stage where we are looking at the nitty gritty.” He said now NYSDOT will be looking at all facets of environmental, traffic and other impacts any expansion or interchange improvement work might bring.

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