Croton's plan to impose order on train station traffic divides commuters
A project designed to improve traffic around the Croton-on-Hudson train station, in the works for several years, is drawing new, vocal opposition even as it moves toward its last planning stage this summer and construction in 2014.
The $2.8 million project aims to improve a roughly half-mile section of Croton Point Avenue, which runs east-west and serves as the gateway to the Croton-Harmon Metro-North train station, the most heavily used station on the Hudson line.
Among the improvements are traffic lights where none now exist and the widening and streamlining of the on- and off-ramps connecting the street to Route 9, the major north-south access road to the train station.
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"The main objections are the expense of $3 million for a project that doesn't add a whole lot of value," said Croton resident Mark Aaron, one of the members of Citizens Against the Croton Point Avenue Project.
The group, a loosely formed committee of local residents who launched a Facebook page on Jan. 16, argued that few people even think a problem exists and that the project will actually worsen congestion at the train station, especially in the evening when a crush of vehicles leaves the parking lot.
The mayor of Croton-on-Hudson, Leo Wiegman, takes a sharply opposite view.
Wiegman pointed out that there have been six accidents between cars and pedestrians or cyclists in the past two years, highlighting the treacherous conditions people face trying to get to the station, the mayor said.
Another is the difficulty faced by drivers coming from the north or south on Route 9 who must exit onto Croton Point Avenue and go west to the train station.
The problem is serious enough, Wiegman said, that traffic, especially on the southbound off-ramp, backs up into travel lanes on Route 9.
The village now deploys police or parking enforcement officers at the lot entrance, near the southbound Route 9 ramp, to help move traffic for some peak-hour trains.
About 95 percent of the project's cost would go toward two major improvements, the mayor said.
The first is to widen the southbound Route 9 off-ramp to two lanes and re-engineer the northbound on-ramp to meter traffic and provide pedestrian crossings where none now exist.
The other is the addition of three programmable and synchronized traffic lights at the chokepoints, eliminating the need for officers, and the upgrading of another existing light to outfit it with technology to dovetail with the new lights.
Aside from the cost of the project, a traffic light in the station lot is one of the major objections of the opposition group.
"If you ask anybody at the train station whether they are for or against something like this, I think you are going to get a resounding no," Aaron said. "Because for anybody who commutes, it's just going to add delay."
A federal grant will cover $1.2 million of the total project cost. It comes with the stipulation that improvements on Croton Point Avenue be "multimodal" -- that is, they must address a full range of transportation modes: walking, biking, busing and individual driving.
Another $500,000 came from the county several years ago when it turned over stewardship of Croton Point Avenue to the village.
That leaves $1.1 million for the village to cover, or more if the budget rises.
Wiegman said it is important to take advantage of the federal money, which, in his view, is not likely to become available again if not used now.
And of all the capital improvements the village must make, the access to the train lot is one of the few that represents a return on investment, according to the mayor.
Use of the lot has been growing and now nets $1.9 million per year for the village, he said.