Mobilizing the Region
Issue 148October 24, 1997

Bailing Out Bad Development (and Encouraging More of the Same)

Despite a shift in rhetoric toward "regional planning," many highway agencies remain firmly rooted in the business of accommodating the traffic caused by bad land use decisions. And often, the "solution" makes traffic and sprawl even worse. Such is the case with NYS DOT's $35 million project to widen Route 120 in North Castle, in eastern Westchester County. North Castle has approved developments along Rte 120 that could add up to 3600 cars per day to the scenic, tree- and stone wall-lined two-lane highway, hard by the Kensico Reservoir. DOT is slated to widen Route 120 from two to five lanes between Route 22 and I-684 in 1998 and 1999, at a cost of around $30 million.

The project fits no one's regional plan, especially not the Westchester Planning Dept.'s "Patterns" plan to focus investment in existing centers and developed corridors, nor the NYC watershed agreement. The project may save car commuters a few minutes after it is first built, but it is likely that it will also spur more development and attract traffic because it will ease access to Westchester Airport. This could, in turn, encourage airport expansion, which surrounding communities strongly oppose. Development and wetlands destruction along the Kensico, the last stop before NYC in the reservoir system, also bodes poorly for city water quality. Local and county environmental activists say NYSDOT has dismissed comments critical of the project. They may look to New York City to add weight to their case.

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