By Alex Weisler
At two public meetings Thursday night, state officials urged Yorktown area residents to take caution and use alternate routes when the AMVETS Bridge of the Taconic State Parkway is closed March 26 for about eight months of repairs.
The project will move northbound traffic between Pines Bridge Road and Underhill Avenue onto the southbound parkway and reduce the flow of traffic to two lanes in each direction.
State engineer Hans Preibe suggested that drivers use electronic signs that will be posted to help them “make an informed decision” and use alternate roads like Rt. 9, Rt. 100, I-84 and I-684.
“We’re hoping that a lot of people can try to find alternate routes because we don’t have the capacity to handle all that traffic,” he said.
For those who intend on taking the Taconic Parkway, New York State Traffic Commissioner Joan MacDonald, Yorktown Police Chief Daniel McMahon and several state employees explained the process to two packed crowds in the community room of the Jefferson Valley Mall.
McMahon said additional police personnel will be placed on the roads to make sure any accidents are cleared as quickly as possible.
He said his department has been a part of the planning process with the state for more than a year, adding that he believes most consequences of the road closure have been prepared for.
“We have planned for this. We have anticipated all the complications,” he said. “We will adapt and adjust our plan to handle any additional issues that develop.”
In addition to the increased police presence, the Yorktown Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services are in communication with their Millwood and Ossining equivalents to ensure quick response times are maintained, McMahon said.
State engineer Nick Choubah said the speed limit will be reduced to 45 miles per hour on the affected stretch of road to guarantee safety on the narrower, nine-foot-wide lanes the project will create.
Choubah explained to one audience member who asked that the lanes’ narrowness was one reason why a plan allowing three lanes in the direction of the commute — southbound in the morning from 6 to 9 a.m. and northbound in the afternoon from about 3 to 7 p.m. — with a movable barrier was rejected.
“Nobody was comfortable with three lanes driving in nine-foot lanes,” he said. “And if there’s an accident in that one nine-foot lane, you’re done.”
Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace, who was in attendance, told the crowd he is looking to secure extra paving dollars from the state to cover the added wear-and-tear on local roads that will become likely detours. Choubah said that is “under discussion” but hasn’t yet been approved.
Shrub Oak resident Lenore Pine, who attended the discussion with her husband Charles, said she thinks state employees are aware of the disruptions that will occur but unable to really fix them.
“I think they are [aware], but there’s nothing they can do about it,” she said. “It is what it is.”