There are 4 million miles of roads and highways in the United States. Every year Americans drive some 3 trillion miles on these roads or more than four times what was driven in 1960. Indeed, the amount of travel has vastly increased in ratio to the number of miles of roads that are constructed. The nation's voracious appetite for petroleum consumption is a revelation about the driving habits of Americans. The statistics are arresting:
From 1970 to 2005 highway fuel consumption increased to approximately 165 billion gallons from 92.3 billion gallons even though the average fuel economy has increased 12 mpg to 17 mpg over the last 35 years. This conservation occurred (thanks to American technocracy) even as gas-guzzling SUVs and Minivans have increased nearly 700 percent on our roads since the 1970s.
Clearly, America's love affair with the automobile continues unabated. Early in the 20th century Henry Ford boasted he would build a motorcar for the multitudes - well, as someone once said if you can do it, it ain't bragging. Ford did it. In 1908 Ford's innovative assembly line was manufacturing an automobile every 728 minutes; a dramatic decrease in the previous production time. But Ford was just getting started. Five years later one model was being built in 93 minutes and by 1927 the company was producing an automobile every 24 seconds!
This mass production translated into mass affordability. The original 1908 model cost nearly $1,000; 20 years later Americans were purchasing the newest models for less than $300. A luxury for the rich had now become a necessity for the common citizen. While the electronic media and computer technology is today's cutting edge of progressive change in America, for most of the 20th century no other historical force so revolutionized how Americans live, work and play than the automobile.
Not only did the automobile make the modern city but it also made the United States the first suburban nation. These developments made America an immensely richer and muscle-bound country. The land was huge and vast and required a massive, sweeping labyrinth of highways and roads that would serve as tributaries feeding the great, roaring river of America.
With the vast majority of the nation's roadways being publicly owned, President Eisenhower, in 1956, inaugurated, with bi-partisan support, the Interstate Highway Act, the largest public works program in history. The goal was to make America a truly mobile society, connect the nation culturally and economically and, for national security reasons, to have the capacity to move troops and supplies expeditiously throughout the country. It is no coincidence that all bridges on Interstate Highways have a clearance of 13'10" (13 feet 10 inches) since that was the minimum clearance needed to transport a tank on a lowboy.
The Interstate Highway Act became the most successful public works program the nation had ever seen. But after a half-century of wear and tear our infrastructure has been seriously and in some cases, critically impaired. Some 29 percent of America's 585,542 bridges are deficient or functionally obsolete. Our roads and highways aren't much better. Eisenhower, who fully expected that our network of roads and highways would be maintained in good condition, would be appalled at the deterioration.
By the late 1960s, unfortunately, the illusion of government being omni-provident resulted in an unquenchable thirst to spend on an entire alphabet of causes leaving paltry little for a public works program on either the national or state levels. Perhaps $300 billion is now earmarked to address our nation's infrastructure needs when experts tell us that at least $4 trillion is required. This decline has trickled down to our local highways that are starving for cash infusion to address our own transportation needs. For years your local government and Floral Park's North End Civic Association has been pressuring New York State to give Jericho Turnpike a desperately needed facelift.
After a meeting with members of the NYDOT, we've been informed that four miles of roadwork, including the entire stretch that runs through Floral Park, is being scheduled for Jericho Turnpike. The project involves two stages, the first commencing sometime in 2010-2011 and the second 2012-2013. The entire project will encompass intersection improvements running from the City Line to Herricks Road.
Improvements in Floral Park will consist of street milling and a resurfacing of the entire turnpike. Without the benefit of a construction map one is at a disadvantage in envisioning the proposed improvements. Details of the project summary are as follows:
Little Neck Parkway/Tulip Avenue: The proposal for this section is to eliminate the median on Little Neck Parkway to provide a southbound left turn lane. Tulip Avenue will be widened on the east side to accommodate a double northbound left turn lane. The sidewalk area will be reduced to 8' on this approach. The westbound pavement striping on Jericho Turnpike will be modified to provide a right turn lane to northbound Little Neck Parkway. The median on the west approach to the intersection will be eliminated to provide a left turn lane to southbound Tulip Avenue. A pocket turn lane will be installed from eastbound Jericho Turnpike to southbound Tulip Avenue.
North Tyson/South Tyson Avenue: Modify existing signal phasing to a three-phase operation by adding exclusive eastbound and westbound left-turn phases. The westbound left turn lane will be lengthened on Jericho Turnpike.
Vanderbilt Avenue: The eastbound left turn lane on Jericho Turnpike will be lengthened.
Emerson Avenue/Plainfield Avenue: The westbound left turn lane on Jericho Turnpike will be lengthened.
Median enhancements: This is critical for enhancing the aesthetic appeal of our drab turnpike, which is staggeringly devoid of any charm or beauty. Issues that include bricking and other embellishments are being discussed.
While Jericho Turnpike has seen changes (at the incorporation of our village Jericho Turnpike was a plank dirt road no wider than Tulip Avenue is today) there has not been a major road improvement since the early 1960s when the road was widened. Since 36,000 vehicles travel everyday on Jericho Turnpike the project is long overdue. Like many of our residents I welcome the prospect that this project might finally become a reality, especially since additional safety measures such as pedestrian counters informing those crossing how many seconds they have before the light changes and traffic detectors at street corners to assist the blind and visually impaired.
The DOT has already met with local officials in the affected municipalities to discuss the proposed final draft. A public hearing inviting residents from all the affected areas will then be scheduled perhaps as early as the end of September 2008 but more likely in November 2008. The purpose of the public hearing is to present and then review with the residents the proposed improvements as well as to solicit comments and suggestions all of which will be factored in and where feasible made part of the final design approval. The site of the public hearing is presently scheduled to be at New Hyde Park High School. Be assured I will keep our residents informed about dates, times and location of the meeting as soon as it becomes available.