Traffic study confirms there's a lot of traffic out there

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:56

    Ask any Monroe or Woodbury resident what aggravates them most - they are quick to respond: The Traffic. Many of the roads motorists ride on today were former Indian trails and stage coach routes. They served their purpose when the area was a summer bungalow retreat. The area changed - the population exploded and with it came - the traffic congestion. A task force was formed seven years ago to come up with a solution that would help ease the problem in this area that was once considered "country." It is now considered "mixed suburban" with people and businesses leaving the older, more densely populated areas of the city. This migration has meant a spiralling demand for more schools, roadways and infrastructure. The recently released Southeastern Orange County Traffic and Land Use Study said automated recorders and manual counts found much of the state highways are already operating at or above their design capacity. High on the list are Routes 17, 17M, 208, 32, 105, the Route 17/6/32 interchange and the state Thruway. Several reasons were given for the increased traffic: a significant increase in homes and commercial development in the Towns of Monroe, Woodbury and Blooming Grove. And although the villages of Monroe and Harriman are pretty much built-out, they are the ones experiencing the impacts of the heavy traffic. Over the past 20 years, the rapid growth of the Village of Kiryas Joel, the report stated, has led to even more population added to the area. The Routes 32 and 17 corridor has long been known as the hub of Orange County with its arteries stretching in all directions including to the New York State Thruway. The retail boom to that area has been substantial as has the commuter traffic. The report recommends the towns and villages make changes to their existing zoning regulations. It suggests planners consider a village center concept that would allow for a mix of residential and commercial thereby reducing vehicular traffic. It also recommends that a Transportation Improvement District be created jointly by the municipalities. As a result of the study, several projects are on the front burner: A traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Route 105 and Dunderberg Road by the State Police barracks. Target, now under construction on Larkin Drive, is footing the bill for the new signal, according to Town of Monroe Planning Board Chairman Charles Finnerty. It will be installed when the store opens in the fall. Work on the realignment of the dangerous curve at the corner of Bakertown Road and Route 105 is expected by the end of the year. Route 105 is expected be revamped, said Finnerty, including replacing the new stop sign at the Spring Street intersection with a yield sign. The following projects on the state's future wish-list: Village of Monroe • Access management, driveway consolidation and rear service roads on Route 17. • Extend Larkin Drive from Routes 105 to 208. • Redevelop the area bordered by Lake Street, Stage Road and Mill Pond Parkway for a higher density residential and mix of office and retail, including provisions for public space - a joint Village/Town office space or library, shared parking and open space. • Evaluate the effects of widening Route 17M. • Create a pedestrian-friendly strip on Route 17M. Village of Monroe Mayor Joseph Mancuso said sometimes solving one problem may eliminate another. He was referring to a proposed service road that would run parallel to Route 17 (the Quickway) from Route 208 (First Care facility) to Route 105 where it would pick up the existing Larkin Drive. "This proposal would take a lot of traffic off our roads and, therefore, could mean not having to widen Route 17M," Mancuso said. Town of Monroe • Reduce residential density outside the Village of Monroe to alleviate traffic congestion and encourage pedestrian trips between the town and the village. • Re-zone lands on the proposed Larkin Drive extension from light industrial to office park and to consider senior housing. • A Route 105 interchange. Kiryas Joel • Create a park-and-ride at the intersection of Bakertown Road and Route 105. • Focus development within existing village center and create pedestrian walks within the village. Harriman • A bypass road connecting Baily Farm Road/Route 17M and North Main Street. • Remove the railroad overpass on Route 17 just past Nepera. • Make vehicle and pedestrian connections for future mixed-use development north of the Harriman Train Station into the present roadway network. • The establishment of a Transportation Improvement District to finance transportation improvements within properties east of Route 17. • Expand the existing jitney service between the Harriman railroad station and Woodbury Common. Woodbury • A partial cloverleaf to get rid of the left hand turn to the Thruway from Route 32. • Reduce residential development on the north side of Dunderberg Road and Nininger Road. • Re-develop the area bounded by Smith Clove Road, Estrada Road, the railroad tracks and Route 32 by creating a defined hamlet center with eight dwelling units per acre and a mix of residential, retail and office space. The report also recommended identifying select locations along Route 32 in Highland Mills for increased residential density with up to eight units per acre. Town of Woodbury Supervisor Sheila Conroy described her town as the "end of the tunnel" with commuter traffic coming in from the west and north in the morning and reversed at night. "The study proved how much traffic moves through this area - they saw the numbers, including the weekend figures," she said. While some of the recommendations are helpful, "I have mixed feeling about the land-use recommendations," Conroy said. "One of the problems is our lack of a bus route. Each community needs are different."