Keith Goldberg -Times Herald Record
The line of cars began to form on eastbound Route 17 early Sunday afternoon.
It began in Circleville, then stretched west through Fair Oaks and finally, up into Sullivan County.
“It’s up to the top of the Wurtsboro hill,” said state police Sgt. Kevin Reyes at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Welcome to the mid-Hudson’s summer driving season, where the highways are flooded with the extra cars of vacationers, especially on weekends. And no more so than the just completed July Fourth weekend.
But this summer’s commute is further snarled by a huge construction project: the transformation of eight miles of Route 17 into Interstate 86 at a price of $63 million.
With workers currently rebuilding the westbound portion of the highway between Interstate 84 and Route 302, the resulting lane shifts have cut eastbound Route 17 down to one lane just past the exit for Route 302. It remains one lane until you hit the exit for the Galleria at Crystal Run.
That’s how it will stay for the rest of the year, according to state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Allison Ackerman, even though she says construction could shift to the eastbound side of the highway by the end of this month.
Another consequence of the Route 17 construction could be more traffic on local roads such as Route 17M and Goshen Turnpike, as desperate drivers look for a shortcut. But Town of Wallkill police Chief Robert Hertman said his department hasn’t seen an uptick in activity on those roads yet.
Ackerman says the DOT has put out extra warning signs before the merge on eastbound Route 17 and added temporary pavement to try to make the ride a little smoother.
But it won’t be faster. And an already crowded highway that gets cut in half is a recipe for accidents: There was a three-vehicle crash with injuries around 5 p.m. Sunday, right near the exit for Fair Oaks.
Meanwhile, Labor Day — the summer driving season’s unofficial end — is still two months away.