WITH HEAVILY-TRAVELED NASSAU EXPRESSWAY IN HIGHLY-DEGRADED CONDITION, DUE IN PART TO FLOODING, SCHUMER CALLS FOR ARMY CORPS TO USE SANDY DOLARS TO FUND A STORM-SURGE PROTECTION & REPAIR PLAN; WILL PROTECT ROAD & SOUTH SHORE COMMUNITIES THAT RELY ON VITALLY NEEDED EVACUATION ROUTE
Nassau Expressway Loop in the Five Towns Is In Poor Shape, Plagued By Flooding & Congestion, Which Causes Serious Concern for 400,000 Residents of South Shore Communities That Rely on This Emergency & Storm Evacuation Route - Road Repairs Have Already Been Delayed For Decades & Design Work Currently Won’t Begin Until At Least 2023
Repair Work Was Most Recently Delayed Due to Complicated Engineering Concerns Over Nearby Soil Erosion & Tidal Wetlands – Schumer Is Urging U.S. Army Corps, Flood Mitigation & Soil Erosion Experts, To Step In With a Repair Plan for Nassau Expressway; Senator Has Identified Three Army Corps Funds for Repair Work, Including $50 Million Available in the Sandy Bill
After Katrina, Army Corps Teamed up With State & Local Transportation Officials to Design Storm-Surge Protection For Louisiana Evacuation Routes – Feds Must Do the Same in Nassau County to Protect South Shore Community Residents From Repeated Flooding on Emergency Evacuation Routes
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to jump-start a storm-surge protection and repair plan for the highly degraded Nassau Expressway, NY Route 878, which is heavily traveled, a critical evacuation route for the South Shore, and prone to significant flooding in even the smallest rain storms. Schumer specifically called for the Army Corps to utilize one of three options, including funding the project through the Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), designated for flood mitigation planning-and-construction on critical infrastructure, that received $50 million from the Sandy relief bill and also receives annual appropriations. Schumer said that meaningful repair work to the Nassau Expressway loop in the Five Towns has been delayed for decades, and most recently road repairs were delayed due to complicated engineering concerns over nearby soil and tidal wetlands, and Superstorm Sandy damage. Therefore, Schumer urged the Army Corps – experts in developing plans to mitigate soil erosion and flooding – to step in and federally fund a flood mitigation and repair plan for this roadway, working with NYS Dept. of Transportation, the Town of Hempstead and Village of Lawrence to execute construction thereafter. Schumer highlighted that after Hurricane Katrina, the Army Corps took on a similar project and teamed up with local transportation officials to design storm-surge protection for several flood-prone evacuation routes in Louisiana, with a focus on staying on schedule, within budget and with limited disruptions to highway traffic.
Schumer was joined by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, the Village of Lawrence Mayor Martin Oliner and Nassau County Legislator Howard Kopel.
“Nassau Expressway is a critical artery for South Shore residents, especially in the event of an emergency or another hurricane; after decades of delay in repairing its highly degraded state, we need all hands on deck to bring this flood-prone roadway back to a working, safe condition for the people of the Five Towns, Atlantic Beach and beyond,” said Senator Schumer. “Particularly given that the most recent repair plans were delayed due to engineering concerns over nearby soil erosion and wetlands - compounded by Sandy damage - I am urging the experts at Army Corps to step in and do everything possible to use federal funding to assess, design and conduct a storm-surge protection project for the dilapidated Nassau Expressway. We must make sure South Shore community residents are protected from repeated flooding on critical emergency evacuation routes and to jump-start subsequent construction work.”
Schumer continued, "In light of the fact that 400,000 South Shore community residents rely on this evacuation route, and it is often impassable due to flooding, it is critical that the federal government step in and fund this protection plan so the roadway is functional in the event of future storms or other emergencies.”
“The Nassau Expressway/ 878 can’t handle rush hour traffic, let alone a massive evacuation like Sandy. In southern Queens and Rockaway, we have had two full evacuations in three years, both times on short notice. The Rockaway peninsula has only have three points of evacuation for residents and emergency personnel in the event of a disaster including the Nassau Expressway and waiting for another disaster like Superstorm Sandy to address our vital roadway infrastructure will only make the repairs more expensive and potentially put our families at risk during future emergencies. I want to thank Senator Schumer for his tireless efforts on behalf of our communities still recovering from Sandy and for his efforts to make our neighborhoods more resilient,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder.
“It is most gratifying that Senator Schumer, a foremost advocate for the citizens of this state, has joined the fight to finally provide a safe and efficient route to and from the Rockaways and Southwest Nassau County. Our residents need and deserve a way to travel to work without horrendous delays, and a viable evacuation route in times of emergency. I truly appreciate his involvement, and look forward to working with him,” said Legislator Howard Kopel.
The Nassau Expressway (Rt 878) is a heavily commuted roadway that connects Southwest Nassau to Queens. Each day 40,000 vehicles travel along the Nassau Expressway as they commute and visit its numerous shopping centers, which often results in heavy traffic conditions, especially during rush hour. The roadway also serves as a designated storm evacuation route for approximately 400,000 people on Long Island’s South Shore, designated as the route for ambulance, fire vehicles and police cars during emergencies, as well as residents that must evacuate during flooding or other natural disasters.
The expressway is currently in need of major repairs. Specifically, the expressway has a significant number of potholes, exposed gravel and poor drainage. These potholes results in large puddles and flooding of the roadway even with minor rainfall. Schumer highlighted that the road’s poor drainage and other factors that contribute to flooding are on full display during more significant rainfall. Although it was used as an evacuation route during Sandy, the roadway flooded severely during the storm. The Costco parking lot along the expressway, where Schumer stood today, was completely flooded because of Superstorm Sandy. Repair projects along the Expressway have been delayed for decades; most recently, in 2012, New York State delayed the project because engineers had concerns over soil and nearby tidal wetlands. As of now, design work is not expected to begin until at least 2023 and completed in 2025. A second phase, originally slotted to start in 2007, is now 20 years delayed until 2027, according to Newsday.
Schumer today said that because the Nassau Expressway is a flood-prone, designated emergency evacuation route, that was then further impacted during Superstorm Sandy, the Army Corps of Engineers should jumpstart a storm-surge protection and repair plan for the degraded roadway. He is urging that the federal agency use available funding to visit the site, design the best flood mitigation options for the roadway - like ways to improve drainage and manage soil erosion – and then implement those measures in conjunction with local transportation officials. Schumer pointed to a similar example in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, when the Army Corps focused on raising a section of Causeway at Lake Pontchartrain and worked on flood protection designs under I-10 and I-310, working with local officials.
Schumer pointed to several types of Army Corps federal funding that could be used to assess, plan and provide storm surge protection for this vital road:
- The Army Corps could include the project in the Rockaway Reformulation Project, due to the expressway’s close proximity to the Jamaica Bay. Schumer explained that the study’s objective is to find a long-term, cost-effective solution to the negative impact of continued erosion on the Rockaway peninsula. The study and subsequent construction was fully funded in the Sandy Supplemental Bill.
- The project is also eligible for funding through the Army Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), specifically Section 14 which protects critical infrastructure. Schumer secured $50 million in Sandy funding for the CAP program, in addition to the annual appropriations that it receives.
- Special Investigations Funding, part of the Army Corps’ annual appropriations, is another eligible pot. This fund allows the Army Corps to do a site visit, meet with locals and then issue a recommendation report to see if there is a federal interest to be involved.