TUPPER LAKE - The message from Tupper Lakers seemed clear at a Wednesday night meeting: A complete reconstruction of the village's main intersection would have too much of an impact here.
Five people spoke out against a new intersection alignment at a state Department of Transportation hearing on a road project that could remake the intersection of state routes 3 and 30 in the center of the village, where Park and Mill streets meet.
About 30 people or more showed up to the hearing, and many of them expressed similar sentiments in informal portions of the meeting before and after the formal part.
Jon Adams, right, a landscape designer with the state Department of Transportation, answers questions Wednesday about a road reconstruction alternative for Tupper Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
DOT representatives presented the three options they are considering for the intersection: Do nothing, upgrade the existing streets, or create a new alignment for the intersection.
Regional Design Engineer Robert Curtis told the crowd that no alternative will make everyone happy, but DOT is trying to figure out the right balance.
"There are strong opinions favoring each of the alternatives," Curtis said. "I can honestly say we have not made a decision."
Upgrading the existing streets wouldn't entirely fix one of the main problems DOT is trying to remedy with the project: Several intersections in the project area don't have enough room for large trucks to turn through them.
To bring the intersections up to current standards, DOT would need to remake the intersection, constructing either a roundabout or a T-style intersection. That would require the state to take several more buildings than with the other option and would force the relocation of Day Wholesale, a business that would have much of its parking lot taken.
The new alignment alternative would also have significant impact on businesses that would technically still be able to stay there. Dan McClelland, owner of the Tupper Lake Free Press, and Ted Desmarais, who co-owns Tupper Lake's location of Little Italy restaurant, both spoke to say that taking away street parking and limiting access to their buildings would cripple their businesses.
"We would literally lose our business," Desmarais said. "I'd like to stay in Tupper Lake, I love Tupper Lake, I love running a business here, but 5A and 5B (the new alignment alternatives) would be a deal breaker."
McClelland also said the new alignment would make him move somewhere else.
In the alternative where existing streets would be upgraded, the DOT presented two options: The DOT upgrades the state highways through the project and only do minor improvements on the village-owned portion of Wawbeek Avenue and Lake Street, or upgrade it all but with the village paying $1.9 million for upgrades of the village streets.
Curtis said redirecting state highway traffic to the corner of Wawbeek Avenue and Lake Street, instead of making a turn onto Park Street and then turning again onto Mill Street and then onto Lake, would solve the traffic flow problems he sees with the alternative that would upgrade existing streets.
Day Wholesale owner Peter Day, who sent comments to the hearing that were read by Phillip Perry because he said Day couldn't make it, suggested that the state take over the village portions of Wawbeek Avenue and Lake Street. He argued the village shouldn't be burdened with the upkeep of those roads if truck traffic is redirected there.
Curtis said that for the state to take over new roads would take an act of the state Legislature, and it is unlikely at a time when most government agencies are looking to cut costs.
"Nobody wants more responsibility," Curtis said.
He said maybe the village can work with state representatives to see if it's a possibility, but he said it's rare that such an agreement can be reached.
In either road construction alternative, the DOT plans to take the building at the corner of Park Street and Wawbeek Avenue, which now houses a sporting goods store. A number of strips of land would also need to be taken through the eminent domain process to complete upgrades, though more would be taken in the new intersection alignment alternatives.
In either option, the village would pay a half-million dollars to upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure under the road. Village Mayor Paul Maroun said in formal comments that because the work would be done while the DOT has the road dug up, it would be less expensive than if the village had to dig up the roads.
Several other people asked questions about how the construction would impact their businesses and homes, and DOT representatives talked with them about their concerns.
Seventeen members of the public also showed up to an informal information session in the afternoon, and they asked similar questions, according to DOT representatives.
Curtis said the most current timeline for the project is to get design approval and start taking rights of way in spring 2013, then start construction in summer of 2014 and have the construction done by fall of 2015.
Information on the project is available online at www.dot.ny.gov/tlakerecon. DOT representatives said the PowerPoint presentation they gave Wednesday will be available on the website, but not for a few days.
The DOT is taking written comments on the project until Oct. 5. Officials said written comments will carry the same weight as comments spoken on the record at the hearing.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.