Workers are back on the job after a recent State Supreme Court decision jump-started repairs to the long-awaited Route 17 Exit 122 highway interchange in Middletown.
In dismissing a lawsuit that halted the work, the court restarts the reconstruction of the Crystal Run Road and East Main Street interchange in Middletown in the Town of Wallkill. The exit serves the Orange County Medical Center, and the many commercial and retail establishments in the area faced hazardous conditions even before the center's opening in 2011 increased local traffic and accelerated development, officials said. The $68.4 million project will address the sharp curves, steep grade and dangerous proximity to the Interstate 84 ramps.
"Had there not been a resolution, this would have been devastating to us," said Orange County Executive Ed Diana. "We located the medical corridor here with the knowledge that this reconstructed interchange would be coming, and it has now become saturated with traffic. The county and region need this project as this area grows."
The decision follows State Supreme Court Justice Henry Zwack's refusal to hear a Lancaster Development lawsuit challenging the use of a project labor agreement, or PLA. Although Lancaster won the initial bid for Exit 122, a subsequent state Department of Transportation study recommended that using a PLA could diminish costs by up to $2.4 million. The project was set for rebid and awarded to A. Servidone/B. Anthony Construction Corp. for $68.4 million with the PLA provision, which incorporates cost-saving concessions with a pledge to hire local labor. Judge Zwack ruled Jan. 7 that Lancaster's failure to submit a second bid proposal left the lawsuit without standing.
"This is a win for everyone. Now that we can use the PLA to bring in local employees, we'll create needed construction jobs while addressing access to the regional center and bringing the road up to federal standards," said Todd Diorio, president of the Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trades Council.
Recently retired Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-Hurley) first proposed transforming Route 17 into an interstate in 1993. In the years since the legislation passed in 1998, Interstate 86 has encountered several roadblocks.
Orange Regional Medical Center spokesman Rob Lee says he's confident the approved work ultimately will create a smoother and safer trip to the hospital.
"We anticipate that the project will improve the exit and provide appropriate and safe transportation routes for our community, especially those that seek care at the main hospital, our medical pavilion or our other outpatient centers adjacent to this exit," Lee said.
Eventually, I-86 will extend to Harriman, where it will join Interstate 87. The project is expected to be completed in 2015.