The state is planning to decommission the Sheridan Expressway and turn it into a tree-lined boulevard as part of an ambitious plan to reverse the blight on the South Bronx created by highway-phile Robert Moses, Governor Cuomo announced on Sunday. The plan also calls for easing truck access to the Hunts Point Market by building new exit and entrance ramps.

Cuomo is calling for $700 million to be included in the state budget this year to go towards the plan to open up the Sheridan to pedestrians and cyclists, and also ease access to the walled-off Bronx River. The proposal is part of a larger $1.8 billion plan that also includes a new interchange with the Bruckner Expressway, adding a ramp over the Bruckner and a new exit off of it to funnel truckers towards the produce hub in Hunts Point in an effort to cut down on the surface street idling that has contributed to the South Bronx's elevated asthma rates.

"Building the Sheridan Expressway was a mistake," Cuomo said during his announcement. He called Moses, whose highways bounded the city's waterfronts and sliced up neighborhoods, "a good man" who "tried hard," but said now is the time that "We have to take the Sheridan Expressway and we have to transform it into a boulevard with crossings for people, pedestrian crossings, green space, slowing down the traffic and inviting you into the green space" of Starlight Park along the Bronx River.

The traffic calming portion of the plan seems at odds with the other, truck-traffic-facilitating aspect, which calls for building a new ramp over the Bruckner Expressway to carry vehicles directly onto Edgewater Road, the final approach to the market, as well as new, wider decking on the Bruckner. The market is among the world's largest wholesale produce markets and gets around 13,000 trucks a day. Child asthma hospitalization rates in the South Bronx are about 1.4 times the citywide rate, and 7 times the state rate outside of New York City. A Governor's Office spokeswoman said she would check to see what transportation planners have said about the potential for the conversion of the Sheridan into a boulevard leading to more idling and thus more air pollution. We'll update if we hear something further.

The announcement comes more than a half century after the construction of the Sheridan. Moses originally planned for it to connect to the New England Thruway, plowing through the Bronx Zoo, but by the early 1960s his influence was waning, and it ultimately only extended a little over a mile, running between the Bruckner and the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Since at least the late 1990s, local activists and officials have advocated to increase access to the Bronx River. The city completed an elaborate revamp of Starlight Park in 2013, but access to the park remained limited to three entrances, one off of a Sheridan service road, another extending down from the East 174th Street Bridge, and a third from a tucked-away Bronx River pedestrian path starting at East 177th Street.

Here's video showing the view of the Sheridan Expressway from the 6 train:

Activists and officials praised the announcement. Pratt Center for Community Development policy director Elena Conte told the New York Times, "It’s an encouraging start, and a lot of very important details need to be worked out."

"It’s definitely a welcome relief for the neighborhood," Welcome2TheBronx blogger Ed Garcia Conde told the Daily News.

As part of the first phase of Cuomo's plan, the Sheridan would be narrowed from six to five lanes at its widest, broken up by tree-dotted medians, and crossed by three crosswalks. The pitch also calls for building a new pedestrian bridge over the Bronx River. Another pedestrian bridge and a third over the Amtrak tracks on the river's south side are part of a long-delayed plan to expand the park space on either side of the river between Westchester Avenue and East 174th, and better connect it to the Bronx River Greenway.

The Governor's Office spokeswoman said that the overhaul of Sheridan Boulevard is set to be completed by 2019, and that the state aims to finish the environmental impact study for the new ramps by then as well.

In his announcement, Cuomo tied the redesign to his other big-ticket initiatives, including the rebuilding of the Tappan Zee Bridge, the overhaul of LaGuardia Airport, and the planned overhaul of the AirTrain connection to JFK.

"For many, many years, this city, this state didn’t do rebuilding and redevelopment the way it should," he said. "Think about it: When was the last time we built a bridge? When was the last time we built an airport? When was the last time that we built a really big construction project? We just haven’t. We’re living on the legacy that our fathers and mothers and grandparents left us."

Cuomo is a notoriously big spender when it comes to projects that he has attached his name to, often announcing projects without having identified funding sources, whereas other initiatives with broad legislative support such as standardizing funding for public defenders or supporting hospitals that serve uninsured patients have drawn his veto over alleged fiscal concerns. The Sheridan-Bruckner project is no exception—Cuomo's plan is to seek $700 million from the legislature this year and figure out the remaining costs as he goes along.