Mr. Sanchez focuses on downtown street work and construction challenges
In the aftermath of September 11th, the city Department of Transportation (CDOT) was charged with restoring hundreds of lane miles damaged by streams of heavy vehicles brought in for the recovery effort. That effort also meant major traffic coordination and pedestrian management, as well as multiple capital street reconstruction projects funded by the federal government for downtown rebuilding.
To help manage these and other vital tasks, and to help keep local businesses, residents, and visitors flowing, the DOT formed the Lower Manhattan Borough Commissioner’s Office -- the agency’s first office dedicated to only a segment of a borough.
Luis Sanchez, P.E., joined that department in 2005 as Director of Street Reconstruction and was appointed Commissioner in May 2007. A native New Yorker, Mr. Sanchez has worked in regional planning and design for more than 30 years. His focus these days is on the area south of Canal Street, where construction in and around the World Trade Center site is a steady source of traffic-management challenges.
Because his agency plays a key role in permitting work that affects streets and sidewalks, Mr. Sanchez spends much of time ensuring inter-agency and private-project coordination. It is his job to strike the balance between safety, access, and quality of life. As anyone downtown knows, disruption is the nature of construction -- which is why his agency’s permit stipulations are carefully monitored to maintain traffic and well communicated to the local community.
Mr. Sanchez also oversees his department’s planning and design studies to sustain long-term pedestrian and vehicular needs in Lower Manhattan, such as the Fulton Street Corridor and East River Waterfront projects. Because after all, the tremendous rebuilding work now taking place already brings about major access and community-growth needs.
We asked Mr. Sanchez three questions about the work his team does every day to keep downtown moving.
What are factors that influence the New York City DOT’s permit stipulations?
Mr. Sanchez: We need to ensure that contractors are using public space safely and efficiently.
Our first step is understanding the request. In particular, we look at what exactly is being requested, why it’s needed and for how long -- all with an eye for how a request can impact the general public and adjacent properties. We also look at the larger picture by checking whether the request might impact other work zones or detours already in place. Our goal is always to minimize inconveniences while allowing necessary work to move forward in a safe and timely manner.
Considering the high traffic volumes of both people and vehicles, narrow roadways and construction access demand, what are some of Lower Manhattan’s biggest traffic successes?
We are especially proud of our public-safety record, and we will continue to keep safety top of mind as we work with our partners to revitalize the area. There have been few incidents thanks to the coordination of roadway, lane and sidewalk closures over these many years of major construction activity.
And through it all, traffic is still moving in Lower Manhattan.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the “hands on” work with the many other City and State agencies involved in the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan, including the LMCCC, the Port Authority, and the City’s Departments of Design and Construction, Economic Development Corporation, and Parks and Recreation Dept.
I am also pleased with the tremendous progress we have made on our street reconstruction program. I’ve only been at NYC DOT for four years, and we have already seen so many major projects move from the drawing board to construction in that time.