When the Briarcliff Peekskill Parkway opened in the early 1930s, its hilly, winding design was well suited to New York City motorists out for a weekend jaunt.
It’s hard to imagine the designers envisioned some 48,000 passenger vehicles and trucks a day rumbling through a corridor that’s swelled to accommodate residential and commercial development.
Yet little has changed over the years along the state roadway, now known as Route 9A, said Briarcliff Manor Mayor Steven Vescio, noting that 120 accidents a year occur on the 2.5-mile stretch in his village alone, as well as damaging flooding triggered by poor drainage.
“It’s simply a miracle that more people haven’t been killed or injured,” he said during an April 29 press conference alongside Route 9A, as a steady stream of traffic whizzed by.
Standing at the same spot as he had in October 2019, Vescio again demanded the state Department of Transportation take action to bring the road into the 21st century.
The mood was lighter this time, as dozens of elected officials and residents applauded the announcement that $3 million in state funding had been approved for a comprehensive study of the roughly 10-mile corridor, which runs from the southern border of Mount Pleasant to the northern edge of Ossining.
“We have been fighting for this roadway to get upgraded, and we stood here nearly 30 months ago with all these people behind us supporting this exact same cause,” Vescio told the gathering. “Now here we are, hundreds of accidents later, lives changed, and we’re here to announce some good news.”
He rattled off a list of the road’s most outdated features: Overpasses (especially the one at Pleasantville Road) that are too low for some of the taller trucks to squeeze through; a dearth of shoulders for broken-down vehicles; dividers and guardrails in disrepair; scores of potholes; poor drainage.
Upgrades to drainage along Route 9A can’t come soon enough for Stephanie Driver, whose home is one of many in Briarcliff’s “tree street” neighborhood that suffer from flooding from the Pocantico River.
“The study is an essential first step, but it’s just that — a first step,” said Driver, whose home was last inundated during Hurricane Ida in September 2021. “We all know that studies often wind up sitting on a shelf gathering dust. There have been many studies of the Pocantico River basin starting with Hurricane Floyd in 1999. … but no actions have been taken.”
Indeed, the timeline for the study to begin, let alone construction upgrades, are still to be determined. State Sen. Pete Harckham, who co-sponsored the measure that put the $3 million into the state budget, noted the process was in the hands of the DOT, which may put out a Request for Proposals for a contractor to perform the study.
Harckham said he hoped the study would get underway sometime this year, and that construction would fall under the state’s five-year capital plan. “This is going to be a very, very expensive project,” he said.
Harckham added: “This is what happens when we don’t invest in our infrastructure.”
The study is based on legislation (S.2988 / A.5925) that Harckham and Assemblywoman Sandra Galef introduced (and which Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick and Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti have cosponsored). It will include cost estimates of the following: Installing new guardrails; underpass improvements; environmental impact; duration of the project and its impact on local traffic.
Vescio said waiting for the study to be completed to repair some of the road’s more glaring defects would be “simply unacceptable” by the state.
The DOT looked forward to working with local officials and community stakeholders to review planning options for the corridor, according to a statement from public information officer Heather Pillsworth. She said the department routinely conducts maintenance along Route 9A, including guide rail and pothole repairs. The traffic signals were also recently adjusted to ease congestion, she said.