DOT outlines plan to expand Routes 13, 281


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Traffic moves past Route 281 Bowl, which sits just a few feet from the edge of the roadway, Thursday afternoon. This is one of the properties that the state has proposed to acquire in whole or part for a project to widen the highway.

Staff Reporter

The final plan for widening the Roues 13 and 281 corridor was accepted Wednesday by the Cortlandville Town Board.
Over the next five years, the state Department of Transportation will widen and rebuild the Route 281/Route 13 corridor between Lime Hollow Road in Cortlandville and the Interstate 81 access road in Homer.
“It’s going to be a difficult time for anybody who lives along that stretch and any businesses along that stretch, but when it’s finished it should increase traffic flow, and it should be safer traffic flow,” said Dick Tupper, Cortlandville town supervisor.
The state found that the proposed widening and reconstruction would have no significant environmental impact, although 0.34 acres of wetland would be affected.
“The wetland impacts will be mitigated with replacement wetland acreage,” according to the state’s findings and design proposal.
“I think that the whole thing has just been delayed for a number of years because of the negative public comment,” Tupper said Wednesday evening, “and now I think the state’s finally moving forward.”
The plans for the reconstruction have been in the works since 2000.
The first phase of the reconstruction should be put out to bid in early 2008 and construction should start shortly thereafter and continue into 2009. But this is a tentative projection said Gene Cilento, design project manager for the DOT.
Cilento said Thursday afternoon he is awaiting final approval of funding for the $17.5 million project.
“The consultants are working on a detailed design before the actual money has come through,” he said. “It’s imminent; they’re trying to get a jump on it.”
Cilento said that negotiations for property acquisitions will begin once the money comes through, possibly in the fall.
Because of the extensive widening of many sections of the corridor, many properties will lose some land to the state, and some would be purchased in their entirety and the buildings removed.
The design report said that two residences, five commercial businesses, and two gas station canopies would be forced to relocate because of the project. Cilento was unable to identify which properties on a chart located elsewhere in the design report were going to be total acquisitions, or merely smaller right-of-way acquisitions.
During the first phase of the project, construction between Lime Hollow Road on Route 13 and the entrance to the Top’s supermarket plaza on Route 281 will be completed.
A five-lane divided highway with left-turn lanes at the Wal-Mart entrance and Lamont Circle will extend from Lime Hollow Road north to the intersection of Routes 13 and 281 and will be bordered by shoulders, according to the final design report.
From that intersection to McLean Road, a five-lane section consisting of two through lanes and a center two-way left turn lane will be provided, with the outside lanes widened to accommodate bicycle traffic. North of McLean Road near the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway crossing, Route 281 will narrow to a four-lane corridor, with the wider outside travel lanes.
Luker Road’s intersection with Route 281 will be realigned, and a traffic signal will be installed.
The road will be widened to allow turning lanes for Luker Road in both directions, and the five-lane section will continue at this point and extend north through Route 222.
From the intersection of Routes 13 and 281, sidewalks will run along the western edge of the corridor until the Route 222 intersection. The DOT will also install new curbing and driveways, as well as a closed-drainage system, along most of the project length.
Steve Malchak, owner of Cortland Used Cars on Route 281 just south of the McLean Road intersection, said that the sidewalks are absolutely necessary because he sees residents of the nearby college apartment housing walking along the road on a daily basis.
“I just wish they would get it over with so I could sleep at night,” Malchak said Wednesday night. “It’s going to really hurt me for two years.”
He was concerned that the traffic would be detoured during construction, and with about 40 percent of his business coming from Tompkins County, Malchak had a genuine fear of being put out of business.
“One lane of traffic will be maintained in each direction at all times. Essentially what you have now will be maintained,” Cilento said Thursday. “There may be minor disruptions here and there when they’re loading in material, but we don’t anticipate stoppages of any duration.”
Malchak said that he sees at least one, usually minor, accident in front of his dealership daily, and that despite the disruption, he feels the reconstruction is necessary.
“There’s no point in messing with it 10 years from now because it can’t handle the traffic. This intersection needs work,” Malchak said.
It is also likely that the state will acquire the house that sits in the center of Malchak’s parking lot near the current edge of Route 281, but his offices and garage should remain unscathed.
Sam Fish of 1092 Route 222 was told by the Cortland Standard that his house, which he had inherited from his grandparents, was on the list of proposed property acquisitions in the final design report, and said that he would sue to keep his house if he had to.
Cilento said that the front porch of the house is already very close to the road, and that the proposed reconstruction would bring Route 222 impossibly close to Fish’s doorstep.
Cilento said that the configuration of Route 222 on the approach to Route 281 from the direction of the city of Cortland is going to have two Cortland-bound lanes coming from the intersection, two left turn lanes, two through lanes, and a “slip ramp,” similar to what’s already in place, to allow for right hand turns — a total of six lanes.
“This is a dangerous corner, widening the intersection isn’t going to help,” Fish said. “It’s not going to solve the problem. The through-traffic from Ithaca is the problem.”
“There are a lot of accidents on there now because of over-capacity issues. Having an additional lane in each direction gives you more gaps to move into, and having turning lanes at the intersections makes the intersections operate more efficiently,” Cilento said.
“They messed around the last time they widened (Route 222),” Fish said, noting that about six feet of right-of-way was taken off the front of his property. “I’ve got a half an acre here. I’ve got an idea that the state of New York wants to steal it because it’s valuable land. I’ve been asked to sell a number of times.”
“We’ve minimized it as much as we can, but there are still going to be acquisitions,” Cilento said. “We try to minimize relocations.”



Marathon man dies while driving a delivery truck

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — A local deliveryman died this morning behind the wheel on Route 11 after swerving off the road and into a field.
Carl D. Resier, 55, of 41 Galatia St., Marathon, was pronounced dead at the scene, State Police said.
Resier was driving a 2001 Freightliner box truck for Square Deal Machining in Marathon when he veered off the west side of Route 11, drove over an embankment, briefly becoming airborne, and then crossing a creek before striking an old building foundation and coming to a halt.
He was traveling north on the road after making a delivery, police said. Resier had arrived at work at 7 a.m. and complained that he wasn’t feeling well before going out on his route, police said.
“We found the operator deceased,” said State Police Sgt. Terry Sullivan. “We know he was leaving a building down the road and reportedly told people at work this morning that he wasn’t feeling well.”
A businessman spotted the vehicle around 8 a.m. about 75 yards off the road and called Square Deal Machining. The company called 911.
Angela Mannino and her boyfriend, Darin Johnson, live across the street from the crash site. The couple heard a loud noise around 7 a.m., Mannino said, __but when they came out to investigate they couldn’t see what caused the sound.
“We thought a truck blew a tire and went off the road,” she said, upset and teary-eyed. “I’m a nurse. I wish I would have known but we couldn’t see anything.”
Mannino added that the driver must have knocked down her mailbox before heading into the field.
Johnson, owner of Johnson Automotive on the same property as the couple’s home, said he, too, thought the noise was a was a blown tire.
“It was around quarter after seven and I heard this horrendous crash, the type of crash where a tire flaps against the steel when it’s gone,” he said. “We looked out the window and couldn’t see anything so I thought he was just really moving.”
There were no brake marks left on the pavement, and the road is fairly straight in the area of the accident. Police said they suspect a medical condition contributed to the accident.
Cortland County Coroner Denise Bushnell pronounced Resier dead at 9:15 a.m. The body will be transported to Wilson Regional Memorial Medical Center in Johnson City for an autopsy and toxicology tests.