AN END TO THE ROAD TO NOWHERE

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The Sheridan Expressway doesn’t have many fans, and the state transportation department is finally realizing that — and considering tearing it down.

In an Environmental Impact Study designed to look at future options for a congested section of roadway along the Bronx waterfront, the Department of Transportation has agreed to study the possibility of getting rid of the Sheridan.

This is good news for residents of Hunts Point, who live in the freeway’s shadow. Planned by Robert Moses at the end of his career, the expressway now stretches 1.25 miles above 28 acres of Bronx River waterfront. Originally meant to connect Westchester County to Hunts Point — Moses envisioned slicing right through the Bronx Botanical Garden and the zoo — the roadway was never completed.

Decades later, the roadway serves as an alternate truck route with a notoriously bad connection to the Bruckner Expressway. “Traffic sometimes has to go down to road level to change freeways,” said Jim Wilson, deputy regional design engineer with the DOT.

In 1998, the Department of Transportation announced it would invest about $250 million to retrofit or rebuild the congested roadway. “Our primary concern is reducing traffic in the area,” Wilson said.

But community members have a different take on the issue: They want the DOT to tear down the Sheridan to make room for a waterfront park and housing. “It doesn’t make sense to rebuild something that didn’t work in the first place,” said Omar Freilla of the Sustainable South Bronx.

As part of the South Bronx River Alliance, his group has pushed for the last five years to get the DOT to consider another means of alleviating traffic in the area, while giving them the greenway they want: Create new access routes to the Hunts Points industrial area off of Leggetts Avenue.

Wilson says this idea, coupled with tearing down the Sheridan, could be “feasible.” “We hadn’t seen the Leggett Avenue option,” he said, nor had they considered the lack of open space in the area. “That’s something that our Environmental Impact Study can factor in,” he said.

For now, planners are pricing the various construction options — there are about six — and conducting traffic studies. DOT will stop taking public comments on May 15 and expects to announce its plans in 2005.