It took the loss of five lives in eight years; thousands of names of names on a petition and constant badgering from local officials to get the state Department of Transportation to agree make safety improvements to the Bear Mountain State Parkway.
Even though a number of residents are pleased that the DOT is moving forward with the safety fixes, there were still a number of concerns raised regarding with the designs shown during a public forum that was held in Cortlandt town hall Thursday.
Cortlandt town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said she appreciated the DOT’s prompt response to the petitioning that was done on behalf of the and nearby residents.
“But my suggestion is that you come back to the back to the drawing board, you come back to the table with our staff our engineers, our traffic committee members could be present if they like …come back, take all of your civil suggestions in to consideration and have a follow information session in this room,” Puglisi said.
About five dozen people attended the session, which was the second out of two of session that were held this week. The first public information session took place Wednesday in Peekskill.
The project, which is expected to begin this summer, calls for the installation of a median rail between Division Street and Locust Avenue; left turn lanes and a new traffic signal at the intersections with Frost Lane and Carhart Avenue; along with crosswalks, pedestrian signal indications, and a sidewalk on Carhart Avenue.
Turn lanes will be provided for left turning vehicles at Bear Mountain Lane, Locust Avenue, Brookside Avenue, and Arlo Lane. An auxiliary lane to accommodate traffic climbing the hill eastbound from Division Street will continue 1,200 feet beyond the intersection with Frost Lane and Carhart Avenue.
William Gorton, the DOT’s acting director for this region, said the project is expected to cost just under $3 million. Groton said the public suggestions given during the public information sessions will be used to fine-tune the final design plans.
“The Bear Mountain Parkway has a high rate of fatal accident and injury accidents,” Groton said, while explaining the reasoning behind the safety improvements. “That’s the primary reason. There’ been a lot of concern in the community and the Department of Transportation. We have safety goals ourselves and we recognize it’s a concern.”
Carole Wilson, whose son LaMarr Barnes was killed in a crash that took place on the Bear Mountain on Dec. 9, 2011, attended Thursday’s information session. She was lukewarm to the proposal presented by the DOT.
“I don’t think we got anywhere,” she said. “At least we go them to address the issue, but I don’t think what they’re looking to do is going to solve anything. It’s just going to make the situation worse.”
Representatives from the Lake Mohegan fire district worried that there wasn’t enough space for emergency vehicles to turn around quickly, especially near the Route 6 intersection.
Cortlandt town Councilman John Sloan called the DOT’s plan confusing and said that it created the same hazard that it tried to cure. He also questioned the decision to reduce lanes on the road when the traffic volume is only going to increase in the future.
“You have balloons, you have metal median dividers and you have ordinary double yellow lines, all interspersed, you have lane that’s appear, lanes that disappear, only for those lanes to reappear once again,” Sloan said. “I have real problems with this and I’m disappointed, frankly, with what I see here.”
He also worried that the Route 6 eastbound going onto Bear Mountain Parkway is one lane under the proposal and would cause cars to back up onto Bear Mountain Parkway and that turning lane onto Locust Avenue aren’t safe enough.
Puglisi said the wording of the petitions that were submitted to the state simply stated that there is desire for a median/guardrail up and down the Bear Mountain Parkway
“It was as simple as that,” Puglisi said. “That’s what I want, and that’s what I’m hearing tonight, and the state DOT came back with these plans and I said they had to be presented to the community so that the community can get their input into these plans. I still stick with my original position and what the petition said…..I can’t seem to understand, and this what I told you when we met, why we can’t just have that median.”
Gorton said the narrowness of the Bear Mountain Parkway would make it difficult to install a a barrier throughout the road.
Gorton said the DOT’s main objective with this project is to address the safety issues as quickly as possible. The project would be completed in the spring of 2014 under the current proposal.
There was an earleir proposal developed years ago for more extensive work on the parkway, but those plans had to be shelved due to budget constraints.
He said one of the reason that DOT will be able to do the job so quickly is because drainage is being affected and very little to is being done to impact the road access to nearby residents.
“This is what you get with fast and cheap,” Gorton said of the proposals. “We don’t have the budget to do a major reconstruction.”
Gorton add that the section of the parkway from Route 6 to Route 35/202 would have it’s speed reduced down from 45 mph with a wide median and shoulder. He expected that people would drive safely on the road, just as they have done on similar stretches. If the road does continue to experience problems, he said the DOT will be more than willing to restart the conversation on safety.