GOSHEN — The developer of the proposed Legoland New York theme park is working on a plan to relocate and reconfigure Exit 125 on Route 17, which would include building a bridge over the highway.
The developer, Merlin Entertainments, said Monday it is working with the state Department of Transportation to finalize the plans, which will remove Legoland traffic from South Street and Harriman Drive in the Town of Goshen. Merlin said the plan addresses the public's concern that local roads will become congested.
The $500 million Legoland New York proposal takes up 153 acres on a 523-acre site on Harriman Drive in Goshen.
According to Phil Royle, Head of Community and Project Relations for Legoland New York, the “new” Exit 125 would be relocated further east on Route 17 in both the eastbound and westbound directions, increasing the distance between Exits 125 and 124. Officials are still deciding the placement of the proposed relocation.
“The intent is to facilitate quick and easy access to the park, minimizing traffic issues on local roads,” Royle said.
He said drivers arriving on westbound Route 17 will exit the highway and enter the proposed bridge, crossing over Route 17 to reach Harriman Drive and the park entrance.
"Most importantly, this would eliminate the traffic concerns expressed by town officials, as well as Orange-Ulster BOCES and the Goshen School District," Royle said. "At the same time, it also offers drivers a new route in addition to the existing Harriman Drive/South Street Bridge route to get to these locations.”
Eastbound traffic to Legoland New York would funnel through the new Exit 125 and either follow signs to the park or proceed to Elant, Glen Arden, or Orange-Ulster BOCES, said Royle. Access to those institutions will improve, he said.
And drivers could use that same bridge to gain access to Route 17M.
This plan differs from an option proposed previously by Merlin to build a “flyover” ramp with direct access solely into Legoland.
Royle said a flyover does not meet federal highway design standards and so may interfere with the long-planned conversion of Route 17 to Interstate 86.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said in a statement that he was "pleased that Merlin Entertainments is advancing an updated plan that addresses legitimate concerns relating to traffic on our local roads. Legoland New York will become a major tourism destination and this latest move also demonstrates their commitment to being a good neighbor."
Detailed plans of this new traffic proposal will be included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The park is expected to bring in an estimated 1.5 to 2.5 million visitors a year and create 500 jobs.
Opposition questions planMichael Sussman, an attorney working for the main Legoland opposition group, Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, has more questions.
“What is the price tag?" he asked. "Who is going to pay? What is the timetable? What about the myriad of other issues raised in the comments we have submitted to the Town Planning Board? This addresses one part of one amongst many serious issues, and its construction will be responsible for massive costs and inconvenience which local taxpayers and drivers should not bear for a project which is profoundly ill-suited for this location.”
Debra Corr of Concerned Citizens said in an emailed statement that taxpayers should not pay for any roads, road improvements, or bridges “designed to drive traffic to the private foreign profiteers Merlin Entertainments.”
“Legoland is looking for another hand out and wants American taxpayers to pay for the bridge and they’ve already been the recipient of 10.39 million dollars in proposed grants (A.K.A. corporate welfare) so they can make over one million dollars per day,” Corr said in her email. “The reason they want to do the flyover is that they would be turned down by (the state Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Conservation) for the Harriman Road entrance and it would be Cheaper for the New York State taxpayers to pay for this then them having a bridge of the Otterkill Creek. Trust me Merlin is a cheap and fast company totally manipulating the State of New York and Town and Village of Goshen taxpayers.”