Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Statement by traffic engineer Brian Ketcham

"Nearly four decades ago William Hoppen and I took on the West Side Highway project. We did so alone. And we paid for all of our work in cash and in careers. The City, State and Federal governments spent $150 million to stop us. They could not. Although they did torture us afterwards.

Westway was not nearly so complicated as Willets Point. Nor as divisive! As with Willets Point, Westway was a multi-billion project. A huge land development swindle that would have made the City’s favored developers billions. Another similarity is that the Westway engineers, Parsons Brinckerhoff, were the same folks who were to form AKRF, the environmental engineering firm who botched the Willets Point environmental impact statement and have caused the multi-year delay in this project.

These engineering firms along with NYCEDC will ultimately be responsible for the collapse of the Willets Point project. In the case of Westway these environmental engineers could not make the case in support for Westway. Their efforts cost taxpayers $150,000,000 and they did not have a clue. It is incredible to think about that battle nearly 40 years later.

For Willets Point, the problem is that AKRF knows precisely what they are doing and they have to lie to make their case. They know that Willets Point is too big for the Flushing area. They know the surrounding roadway network cannot accommodate Willets Point traffic. They know that the Van Wyck Expressway and connecting expressways cannot accommodate so much additional traffic. They know there is no additional transit capacity to accommodate Willets Point and the other projects like Flushing Commons and that even more traffic will be forced onto the area than reported.

They lied and they got caught. They have lied repeatedly. Over the last 18 months we have provided NYCEDC, NYSDOT and the FHWA dozens of documents supporting these assertions, identifying the errors, omissions and outright lies that forced EDC in 2010 to withdraw its application for ramps connecting Willets Point to the Van Wyck Expressway.

While these agencies have failed to directly acknowledge these reports they have been forced, based on these documents, to delay any action on the Willets Point project. Within the next month I will be providing you with a new report summarizing the situation today, critiquing the latest efforts by EDC to sell their Willets Point project, and connecting the current problems that we have identified with all of the many reports that we have submitted over the past 18 months.

The ramps will not help reduce the impact of the Willets Point project. The surrounding roads and expressways cannot accommodate this project let alone the other 20 million square feet of new development generating more than 170,000 new car and truck trips daily. The existing transit systems cannot accommodate 200,000 more daily trips leaving most of these travelers to use their cars and add to the areas Super-Gridlock conditions.

The NYCEDC cannot meet any of the eight FHWA criteria for ramp approval and, as NYCEDC has said repeatedly, the Willets Point project will not work without the ramps. The Willets Point Development Plan is fatally flawed and must be abandoned."