The WCPC annual report for 1948 stated that traffic on Westchester parkways was rapidly increasing. The commission conservatively estimated that traffic would continue to increase at a rate of 10 percent each year and urged Westchester County to fund traffic studies and modernize the parkway system as quickly as possible. Funding had been approved for Westchester County improvements in 1941, but was suspended by World War II. New York City had already modernized its section of the BRPR by 1950, widening the road to six lanes and extending the parkway to Bruckner Boulevard. In 1952, New York State announced that it would provide $7 million to improve Westchester County parkways.(292)
The state appropriated $4,726,000 of the 1952 funding to redevelop the southern end of the BRP and its intersection with the Cross County Parkway. Asserting that the BRP was the first automobile parkway in the world, The New York Times claimed that it had "long been a headache for highway officials because of its serpentine, old-fashioned, boulevard design that defied modernization." The project widened 2.6 miles of parkway drive between the New York City boundary and Midland Avenue to six lanes, eliminated bad curves and grades, and installed a broad center island to separate traffic. Work also included new bridges at Mount Vernon Avenue and Oak Street, as well as work on the Broad Street Viaduct and Midland Avenue Bridge. In addition, access to the Cross County Parkway was improved by a cloverleaf interchange.(293)
Ten bids were submitted for the BRP project, with a $4,300,141 contract awarded to the low bidder, the Del Balso Construction Corporation of the Bronx. Officials expected to close the 2.6-mile project area for one year during construction. Preliminary work began in January 1953. The project did not proceed without controversy. The press reported that bulldozers began "wreaking devastation on the famed beauty of the Bronx River Parkway Reservation." A Bronxville reporter noted that towering maples, evergreens, elms, birches, willows, and chestnuts fell to the axemen. "Rustic bridges," he continued, were "being reduced to kindling and woodland footpaths laid to waste." The serpentine Bronx River was rerouted to run a moderately straight course along the edge of the BRPR in order to provide space for the new road. Acknowledging that the BPC had intended to preserve the parkway "in perpetuity," WCPC general superintendent George Haight asserted that this had proved to be an unrealistic goal. Even a monument to the planners had to be moved to make room for the new road. Haight expressed remorse at the turn of events, but maintained that all the agencies involved in the planning and reconstruction program agreed that a "more functional road was needed." Plans for changing the remaining 10 miles of parkway were abandoned, however, as the cost was deemed prohibitive and residents had "vehemently" objected to altering what some considered a charming example of the "Model T boulevard."(294)
Roads Urged for Westchester," New York Times, April 30,
1949; "Westchester Speeds Road Work; $4,726,000 Job on Parkway Nears,"
New York Times, October 16, 1952; "Bronx River Parkway,
Cross Bronx Expressway, Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Van Wyck Expressway:
New York City," [New York, NY: City of New York, Office of City Construction