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Schumer urges Army Corps to fix evacuation route with Sandy funds

Senator Charles Schumer, left, and Lawrence Mayor Martin

Senator Charles Schumer, left, and Lawrence Mayor Martin Oliner examined the damaged roadway at the intersection of the Nassau Expressway and Bay Boulevard in Lawrence on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Uli Seit

Sen. Charles Schumer on Tuesday called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help repair a crumbling emergency evacuation route in southwest Nassau County that was inundated under 6 feet of water during superstorm Sandy.

Joined by state, county and local elected officials, Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged the federal engineering, design and construction agency to use designated Sandy funding to tackle the problems plaguing a portion of the Nassau Expressway/Route 878 in Lawrence, known as the bypass, that is riddled with potholes and difficult to navigate in even modest rainfall.

"It's time to get all hands on deck and bring this flood-prone roadway back to a working, safe state," Schumer said at a news conference at Nassau Expressway and Bay Boulevard, where deep puddles formed during yesterday's rain showers.

Schumer said the Army Corps of Engineers could take on a Nassau Expressway repair project under various already-funded federal programs, including the Continuing Authorities Program, for which Schumer said he helped secure $50 million in Sandy aid. Schumer said the Army Corps could also expand its ongoing study on how to address erosion at the nearby Rockaway Peninsula to include possible remedies for the Nassau Expressway.

Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Christopher Gardner said Tuesday that the agency will "review the senator's request."

"We'll look into that and see how we can assist," Gardner said.

Nassau Expressway is a designated emergency escape route for some 400,000 Nassau residents, including those living in the county's Barrier Island and Five Towns communities.

Schumer noted that the roadway was most recently supposed to be repaired in 2012, but work was delayed due to engineering issues worsened by the Oct. 29, 2012, storm. The roadway now isn't set for repairs until 2025.

Although past plans for the area have included the construction of a 10-mile roadway from Cross Bay Boulevard in Queens to the Atlantic Beach Bridge, Lawrence Mayor Martin Oliner said residents would welcome simpler solutions, including the addition of a third lane on the adjacent Rockaway Boulevard to ease congestion and serve emergency vehicles.

"There are little things, small things that are doable and need to be done," Oliner said.

Schumer noted that the Army Corps of Engineers has previously teamed with local transportation officials to design storm-surge protection for flood-prone evacuation routes, including in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.

"We have a model and we have the money," Schumer said.

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