The Cuomo admin announced this week that $22.4 million will be spent rehabbing the South Mall Expressway, which connects I-787 to the Empire State Plaza. Work is scheduled to start later this month.
Press release blurbage:
Work on the South Mall Expressway, which carries approximately 21,000 vehicles each day, will occur from I-787 to inside the tunnels underneath the Empire State Plaza. The project will include replacing the concrete driving surface of the four bridges that carry the expressway over 787 and city streets. Work will also involve structural repairs to the bridges, including joint and bearing replacements. Repairs to the pavement leading into the tunnel, work on the connecting ramps and bridge painting and steel repairs are also included in this project.
The project is scheduled to happen in stages -- the westbound side (toward the ESP) this year, the eastbound side (toward 787) next year, and then work under the bridge in 2018. Also: "Consistent with Governor Cuomo's Driver's First initiative, the project has been designed to minimize impacts to expressway traffic. Work that will most affect travel lanes has been scheduled for summer months, when traffic volumes are lower."
He's never going to leave her
The future of 787 is always a hot topic because a lot of people see the highway's placement and shape as a barrier -- between Albany and the riverfront, between downtown Albany and the South End. And if you compare aerial photos of Albany pre-South Mall Expressway and after, you can see the huge path the road plowed through downtown.
Last year a group of state and local agencies started a planning project for the future of 787. And one of the things that struck us at the time was the apparent disconnect between what a vocal segment of the public wants to see happen and what public officials say is possible. In short, some (probably not small) group of people want to see 787 and the South Mall Expressway taken down sooner rather than later -- but officials say 1) there isn't money available for that and 2) even if the money does become available, the timeline for a project of that sort is probably something on the order of decades.
So this announcement about the state sinking the money into repairing a road that many people see as a fundamental problem for downtown Albany reminded us of that scene in When Harry Met Sally in which Marie (Carrie Fisher) is talking with Sally (Meg Ryan) about the man she's been having an affair with for a long time:
Marie: The point is, he just spent $120 on a new nightgown for his wife. I don't think he's ever gonna leave her.
Sally Albright: No one thinks he's ever gonna leave her.
Marie: You're right, you're right, I know you're right.
The state is buying the South Mall Expressway a $22 million spa treatment. It's not leaving the highway anytime soon -- if ever.
Earlier on AOA: If you're interested in this topic, you should read Sandy's take on how knocking down 787 and the SMA could actually help traffic in downtown Albany.
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