STATEN ISLAND — Widening the Slosson Avenue exit ramp of the Staten Island Expressway will start a year early after an extra $125,000 of state funds was given to the project by Assemblyman Michael Cusick.
The state's Department of Transportation will start work next week on the $600,000 project to turn the westbound Exit 12 ramp from one lane to two to deal with rush hour congestion.
"[It allows] the cars to come off into two lanes in an orderly manner and to alleviate the traffic back up that happens on the Expressway during rush hour," Cusick said.
In February, the state DOT agreed to widen the exit ramp, but wasn't able to get the funds until 2017, Cusick said.
After discussions with Councilman Steven Matteo, who said it couldn't wait a year, Cusick worked to allocate some funds so the construction could start sooner.
"By expediting the construction process and moving up the start date, Staten Islanders can begin to experience an improved commute even sooner than expected," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in statement.
"The modifications being made are essential to improving both safety and traffic flow for the thousands of motorists who use it every day."
The widening project will create two lanes on the ramp, which can push traffic either left or right on Slosson Avenue or stay straight onto Gannon Avenue North.
The state expects to finish the project by the end of the summer, Cuomo said.
"We thought we had come up with and solved just about every problem we could solve spending that kind of money," said Charlie O'Shea, director of external and government relations for the state DOT.
"But by keeping the lines of communication open with our elected officials, we began to hear from them."
In the fall, Cusick and Matteo's office started to get complaints from drivers that traffic would back up on the ramp to the highway during the evening rush hour or school dismissal, sometimes taking 15 minutes for drivers to get to the junction.
"It shouldn't take 15 minutes to get off one ramp," Matteo said.
"People getting home from the city, they're already taking an hour commute, then to add insult to injury another 15 or 20 minutes just to get off the ramp."