TUPPER LAKE - State Department of Transportation officials are hoping to hold a meeting about the potential Park Street intersection overhaul this spring.
DOT has presented several different design alternatives to Tupper Lakers, including replacing the Park and Mill Street intersection, the junction of state routes 3 and 30, with a rotary or a larger T-intersection, or directing truck traffic down Lake Street instead of Park Street.
In January 2011, DOT officials told the village board they planned to have a public hearing in February or March of that year on the design concepts for the project, but that never happened. DOT spokesman Mike Flick told the Enterprise in fall 2011 that department officials hoped to have a public hearing and information session in January or February of 2012.
Snow falls Wednesday on the intersection of state routes 3 and 30 at the corner of Park and Mill streets in Tupper Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
Construction on the project was originally slated for 2010. In fall 2011, Flick said the project was scheduled for 2013.
Now, Flick told the Enterprise, funding continues to be an issue on the project, as well as many others. It may hinge on the upcoming federal budget, in which Democrats have put more transportation funds than Republicans want.
"When things become clearer on the federal funding front, we will have a better handle on the project's timeline," Flick said.
DOT is looking to schedule a meeting for late April, he said.
Village Clerk Mary Casagrain told the Enterprise that DOT hasn't contacted the village about setting up a meeting yet, but she said the village will reach out to DOT on the topic soon.
At the January meeting of the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce, board President Doug Wright urged his board to choose one of the design alternatives and throw its backing behind it.
"Let's be the leader of this because no one else is willing to take the leadership and make a decision," Wright said. "And then we have to actually be active and promote it and push it through the other local boards."
Sue Moeller said the community needs to find some common ground. She said a DOT engineer came into the office where she and her husband work, CBNA Insurance, and told them it's up to the community.
"He said to us, 'If there's not an agreement and this doesn't go through, you will not see any changes in your lifetime.'"
But Rick Wilburn said it's a divisive issue. He's concerned about alienating chamber members. And to be sure, the board spent some time arguing over design alternatives before agreeing to think about the issue some more.
Wright prefers the idea of a roundabout. He said that if the chamber takes the long view, it will acknowledge that taking some property off the tax roll will be outweighed by other benefits.
"It's going to increase the appeal and hopefully the value of the surrounding businesses," Wright told the board.
A rotary would also eliminate some parking spaces, but Wright doesn't see that as an issue.
"We haven't had that problem in a long time, and if we have that problem, good," Wright said. "We'd love to have a parking problem in Tupper Lake."
Tupper Lake Free Press Publisher Dan McClelland, whose business would be one of those most affected by a rotary, said he doesn't like the idea.
"I see them as a very fast way to get through the community," McClelland said. "I think they're ugly, and I think they're dangerous. And I think they flow people out of town."
Wilburn said most of the foot traffic over the summer at the chamber office, on Park Street next to the intersection, when he was volunteering there was from people stopping at Stewart's for gas or coffee and noticing the office from across the street.
Wright told the Enterprise this week in an email that the chamber board is still split on the topic. His term is up as board president, and he's stepping down at the chamber's annual meeting next week.
"I hope that the board will take up the challenge to reach a consensus in the best interest of the community and Park Street businesses," he wrote.
Tupper Lake's Revitalization Committee and the village and town boards were originally behind the rotary plan, but officials started pulling back from that support when they realized it would impact parking for Little Italy and the Tupper Lake Free Press, and mess with Day Wholesale so much the business would be forced to relocate.
Flick doesn't agree that the project won't happen if the community doesn't come to a consensus on its own.
"As far as the larger project design goes, it is not our plan to do nothing," Flick told the Enterprise in an email. "We are hoping for a successful resolution to the intersection question and will continue to work toward that end. We realize the sensitivities relative to the potential real estate impacts of the specific design proposals - and their impacts on the local economy."