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Long-Delayed 72nd Street Connection to West Side Highway to Open

By Leslie Albrecht | October 20, 2011 7:36am

UPPER WEST SIDE — A long-closed intersection linking the West Side Highway to West 72nd Street will open this weekend — and some say they're bracing for dangerous traffic conditions as a result.

The intersection of West 72nd Street, Riverside Boulevard and a West Side Highway on-ramp has been blocked by traffic barricades for more than a year, forcing frustrated drivers to do a U-turn when they hit the dead end.

But some worry finally opening the connection will bring too many cars to isolated Riverside Boulevard.

"We will now be dealing with far heavier traffic issues and the potential for catastrophic consequences to local pedestrians/residents," said Thomas Pienkos, senior vice president of operations at the Trump Corporation, which manages some of the apartment buildings on Riverside Boulevard, in an email.

"Excessive traffic is already an issue here on Riverside Boulevard and it is obvious that this situation will only get worse."

Police will be on hand on Sunday and next week to watch for speeding and other violations as drivers adjust to the new traffic pattern, according to a notice from the Department of Transportation.

Residents have long complained that a lack of traffic lights on Riverside Boulevard encourages speeders, and Pienkos said the new connection could worsen the situation.

The long-blocked intersection is at the northern end of Riverside Boulevard, the street that fronts Riverside South, the luxury high-rise buidings constructed first by Donald Trump, then by Extell Development Company.

Riverside Boulevard was built in sections starting in 1997, around the same time as the buildings next to it, according to an Extell spokesman. Construction of the West 72nd Street and Riverside Boulevard connection started in July 2007, and was completed in May 2010.

Opening the connection to traffic was held up for more than a year and a half because of delays in transferring ownership of the street from Extell to the city.

The Department of Transportation unveiled a safety improvement plan for Riverside Boulevard in May. A neighborhood advocacy group, the Coalition for a Livable West Side, said the safety upgrades fall short.