WILMINGTON - Since the detour only uses state roads, the state's signed detour to avoid the roadwork on state Route 86 is 11 miles longer than the most direct way.
To get to downtown Wilmington from Lake Placid, the quickest way is to take Route 86 east. With a small section of the road closed because a flood-damaged culvert is being replaced, the fastest way is still to take Route 86, but to turn onto Fox Farm Road and then Springfield Road. This will put you near Wilmington's main business area. In all, it's about 18 miles from the intersection of Sentinel and Wilmington roads in Lake Placid to the "four corners" in Wilmington, taking this route.
However, the detour signs in Lake Placid, starting at the intersection of Sentinel and Wilmington roads, direct traffic down Sentinel Road, which is part of state Route 73. The detour continues to follow Route 73 into Keene, then turns onto Route 9N, goes through Upper Jay and continues to Jay. This 24-mile detour ends at the intersection of routes 9N and 86 in Jay, which is still about five miles from the four corners.
The state Department of Transportation has been working to replace a culvert on state Route 86 in Wilmington, as seen here on Wednesday. The road has been closed to traffic, but DOT is slated to have one lane open on Friday as workers continue the project.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Lora Bushy)
Earlier this week, the sign pointing east that's on Wilmington Road had the destination "Wilmington" covered in tape. It had been removed as of Wednesday afternoon, however.
Regulations require the state to use its roads for detours, according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carol Breen. She said the DOT decided to leave the signs up in case of emergency, even though, in this case, they had permission to use the local roads for the detour.
"Not that we expect it, but ... if something happened on one of the county roads, (if) one of them closed for a bad accident or something, we wanted signage still in place so we can close the road and get people around it without too much effort," Breen said.
The roadwork on the section of road near the Wilderness Inn II started Monday. It is expected to reopen to one-way traffic no later than 10 a.m. Friday, according to Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston. It will be one-lane, controlled by a traffic signal, for a few weeks after that.
The closure was originally planned for two weeks, but cut to five days after an outpouring of concern from local business owners and officials, fearful of losing revenue during a busy tourist time. Preston has been highly critical of the DOT's handling of the closure, saying there has been little communication.
"This is a comedy of errors, and the Department of Transportation should be embarrassed," Preston said.
Preston said his telephone has "rung off the hook" about the detour, which he criticized as "confusing as the day is long." He said he has heard about a large number of cars driving to the construction site, getting directions and turning around from there, "because if you follow their detour signs, you'll be lost forever."
Essex County has put out several signs pointing toward Wilmington's business district, saying "Wilmington businesses open." As of Wednesday afternoon, one was at the corner of Route 86 and Fox Farm Road; another was near the intersection of Route 86 and Springfield Road, and another was also on Route 86, a couple minutes from the intersection with 9N.