July 28, 2007

North Main detour causes confusion

Replacement of the culvert above Otter Creek on the street began Monday


Bob Ellis/staff photographer   
Despite “Road Closed” and “Detour” signs at the intersection of North Main Street and Homer Avenue, many motorists were still attempting to drive down North Main Street in Cortland Thursday afternoon. In a span of 10 minutes, eight cars drove down the street only to have to turn around in a driveway near the bridge work.

Staff Reporter

With North Main Street closed to replace the box culvert carrying Otter Creek under the roadway, drivers are having trouble navigating the surrounding streets and residents are upset about the new traffic patterns.
In response, the city is looking into placing more signs in the area to keep heavy traffic off formerly quiet residential streets until work is completed in September.
Drivers trying to get to the other side of the work area, which closed off North Main Street between Samson Street and Willow Avenue starting Monday, continue to turn onto North Main Street despite barrels and other barriers set up to block thru-traffic.
One young woman who turned around on Samson Street at about noon Friday said she thought there was another way to go around the construction.
Acting Mayor Sue Feiszli (D-6th Ward) was on Samson Street midday Friday to talk to residents who were upset about the number of cars pulling onto and turning around on the narrow, dead-end street.
Jerry Kalk of Samson Street said drivers are not noticing the detour signs on Homer Avenue leading up to the North Main Street intersection. Kalk and his neighbors are worried about children on the street.
“I know it’s by trial and error until they find what works,” Kalk said of the signs leading up to the roadwork.
Feiszli said that after speaking with the city Department of Public Works and the Department of Public Safety, it’s likely that a “no outlet” sign would be placed just after the intersection with Miller Street, as well as another barricade to make sure drivers are paying attention.
On Homer Avenue, Feiszli said there is not sufficient warning that North Main Street is open to local traffic only, and that more signs would be installed sometime soon.
“It’s just an accident waiting to happen,” Feiszli said Friday afternoon, adding that something should be done to address the right-turn-only lane in front of the Cortland Regional Medical Center. “It’s definitely going to get ironed out.”
Meanwhile, Arthur Avenue has been inundated with traffic as motorists use it to access North Main Street near the Wilson Farms store, and lines of traffic have taken over the uncharacteristically busy road.
A.J. Youngblood, who lives with his parents on Arthur Avenue, said many cars are going down the street at about 45 mph.
“There’s too much activity for the little ones on the street,” Youngblood said as he watched the traffic stream by. “Usually, the street’s pretty quiet.”
Arthur Avenue resident Jeanne Cameron said she and her husband have been in touch with city officials, and through the Neighborhood Watch group, have been “proactive since before it started.”
On Monday, tractor-trailers were using the narrow residential street, but Cameron said the Department of Public Works had placed “No truck traffic” signs at either end of the street within 45 minutes of the first phone call to Superintendent Chris Bistocchi.
“We do feel like we’ve gotten a fairly good response,” Cameron said, adding that there has also been a police presence on the street in response to residents’ requests.
City police Lt. Jon Gesin said Groton Avenue is the designated truck detour.
“It’s a little slow at the busy times, but everyone’s being polite and taking turns and it’s going smoothly,” Gesin said Friday afternoon.
An officer patrols the area when rush hour traffic starts to pick up, Gesin said.



Clinton Ave. bridge project delayed

Staff Reporter

The state’s replacement of the Clinton Avenue bridge is delayed until spring because of changes to the design of the temporary bridge, and state Department of Transportation spokesman Tony Ilacqua said the project should be completed by fall 2008.
“The contractor for the project has proposed an alternative temporary bridge structure which we’re reviewing, and that proposal needs to be reviewed by the (state Department of Environmental Conservation) and the Army Corps of Engineers,” Ilacqua said Wednesday.
The contractor, Slate Hill Constructors Inc. of Warners had the lowest bid for the project, at nearly $3.5 million. The bid was awarded March 16.
“It’s not that we couldn’t get started with it this season, but we’re going to be at a point in construction where some of the operations couldn’t be done in the winter,” Ilacqua said. “We’re optimistic that we will be able to complete the project by the scheduled completion date, which is in the fall of 2008.”
The DOT will replace the existing four-lane, two span, concrete and steel bridge with a new five-lane, one span, concrete structure, with minor work on the adjacent intersections.
During construction, a temporary bridge on the east side of Route 13, between Wendy’s restaurant and the Ramada Inn, will be in place for much of the warm season.
The new bridge will have two lanes in each direction and a center turning lane and will be higher than the current structure to help prevent flooding.
State officials have said the current bridge is in poor shape with temporary shorings holding up the northwest corner, and there is also concrete damage on the underside. The center pier tends to catch a lot of debris during high water levels, as well.
The Cortland County Chamber of Commerce has also been caught up in the delay, said Executive Director Garry VanGorder.
“As part of the project, when I knew that they were doing it, I took a look at our sign there — which has been there for a number of years — and I thought this might be a good opportunity to update it,” VanGorder said.
The sign would have to be taken down during construction regardless, and VanGorder said the state agreed to lend its landscaping design professionals to help come up with a new sign.
VanGorder said he did not know if the state would help pick up the cost of the sign, but that the chamber would likely be able to raise the money.
“We knew that the sign wouldn’t go up before the completion of the construction project,” VanGorder said. “As soon as the sign went down, they decided to put the project off for a year.”
The bridge project has also held up a planned expansion of the nearby Cortland Mobil Mart gas station, on the northwest corner of the Clinton Avenue intersection, for nearly a year.
On Tuesday, the city Planning Commission approved the design, contingent upon the approval of the curb cuts by the DOT.
The expansion — which would include rebuilding the convenience store in the southwest corner of the lot and adding a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through restaurant — was hoped to be completed in conjunction with the replacement of underground gas tanks and relocation of the canopy. That began in October and finished in December.
However, the DOT was not able to give any direction to architect Brian Butner, of Freeville-based Applied Design Research Associates, regarding the two curb cuts for entering and exiting the site. Even pressure applied by state Sen. Jim Seward’s office has only resulted in the DOT’s response that they are an “advisory” agency, and that the project needs a local determination first.
City Planning Commissioner Bill Kline said he was surprised to hear that the DOT would allow the Planning Commission to make its determination before the state passed down its own decision.
“That’s absurd, and that’s not how they operate, and I’ve never seen them operate like this before,” Kline said.


Lightning strike burns garage

Staff Reporter

HARFORD — A two-car garage caught fire and burned to the ground Friday afternoon after being struck by lightning during a downpour.
The fire at 1089 State Route 221 was spotted around 2:30 p.m. by Bob Spicer, an assistant chief with the Killawog Fire Department, who was driving by the residence.
“We drove by and the fire was going out the overhead doors,” he said.
Spicer said he had just dropped off an ambulance at the Dryden Fire Department and was returning to Killawog when he called 911. He said after reporting the fire he then drove to Killawog to get a fire truck and returned to help put the fire out.
Assistant Fire Chief Dustin Contri, of the Marathon Fire Department, said the garage was struck by lighting and two cars in the garage — a Jeep Cherokee and a Jeep Wrangle — were engulfed in the flames.
The two vehicles were burned down to a skeleton of metal. There also was a Chevrolet Blazer next to the garage that was damage by the fire.
The fire was so intense it melted some of the siding on the back of the house, which was around 50 feet away. Damage from the lighting scared a pine tree next to the garage.
“It was definitely lightning,” Contri said.
No one was hurt in the fire, but five dogs that were housed in a kennel on the east side of the building were taken to a veterinarian for burn and heat injuries, Contri said. He said that when firefighters arrived, the dogs did not appear to be badly injured.