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De Blasio Says Cross Bronx Expressway Is his 'White Whale'

By  Eddie Small and Jeff Mays | February 22, 2017 3:01pm | Updated on February 22, 2017 4:32pm

 Mayor Bill de Blasio called the Cross Bronx Expressway his
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the Cross Bronx Expressway his "personal nemesis" at a press conference on Tuesday.
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David Greene

THE BRONX — Mayor Bill de Blasio this week described the Cross Bronx Expressway as his "white whale" and vowed to address the notorious road's problems, but improving the beleaguered expressway will not be such an easy fix.

"I have long since identified the Cross Bronx as my own personal nemesis," de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday. "When I drove myself for many glorious years, it was like, for those of you who have read 'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville, the Cross Bronx was the white whale. That was my nemesis."

The Cross Bronx Expressway this week was again named the worst road in the country in the transportation analytics company INRIX's 2016 traffic scorecard, with the average driver spending 86 hours per year in congestion on the road, according to the study.

Speeds reach an average of just 21.3 miles per hour during peak morning hours and an even slower 15.3 miles per hour during peak evening hours, the study says.

Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute focusing on New York City infrastructure and finances, cautioned that New Yorkers should not expect any quick or cheap fixes.

"A lot of it is unavoidable because it’s interstate traffic," she said. "I mean, it’s people — particularly a lot of the truck traffic that’s just passing through New York — on the way up the eastern seaboard, and it really goes to our dependence on the automobile.

"It’s difficult to fix," she continued, "unless we really take a lot of truck traffic out of trucks and put it onto the freight system."

De Blasio pledged to address the traffic problems in an upcoming plan, but he stressed that responsibilities for the highway were divided up between city and state authorities.

"I will assure you Cross Bronx will be addressed," he said, "even if we have to explain the difference between what we can do and what's a state obligation."

This is not the expressway's first time at the number one spot in the INRIX study, and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez on Tuesday also called for improving the expressway by taking trucks off of it and shifting more commercial traffic to trains.

Matt Chaban, policy director at Center for an Urban Future, maintained that the Cross Bronx Expressway would not see significant improvements until the city and state devoted more resources to public transportation.

"If this really is the mayor’s white whale, I think he needs to point his harpoon—as well as get the governor to point his harpoon—at the Metro-North expansion they're talking about in the East Bronx," he said. "The way to address congestion on the Cross Bronx Expressway is better mass transit in New York City."