SARANAC LAKE - Residents and business owners on Lake Flower Avenue are pressing the state to move up its plan to rebuild their road.
Currently, reconstruction of a 1.1 mile stretch of the road, which is part of state Route 86, is not on the state Department of Transportation's construction timetable until 2020, according to the agency's website. The estimated $9 million project has been pushed back repeatedly over the last 15 years.
Several people who live or own businesses on the road came before the village board Tuesday to ask for the village's help in getting the project moved forward.
Harrietstown town Supervisor and Carcuzzi Car Care Center owner Bob Bevilacqua said the heavily trafficked road is in "deplorable condition" and has reached "emergency status.
"We need your help and leadership, Bevilacqua said, reading from a prepared statement. "We appreciate the village's past and present efforts to approach New York state and DOT, but feel that now a coalition of all elected representatives approaching the governor and DOT may be the only way to make this happen."
Elected officials at the local, state and federal level are being asked to attend a meeting at 6 p.m. on June 26 at the Best Western Mountain Lake Inn on Lake Flower Avenue. The goal of the meeting is to "foster a dialogue and commit to a definitive action," Bevilacqua said.
"We support a focused, united effort to make the state realize what a vitally important long-overdue project this is," he said. "We want to make the capital of the Adirondacks as welcoming as possible and ensure one of its main entryways is as safe, smooth and scenic as the rest of our beautiful area."
"The state of New York and the village need to put this at the top of their agenda," said Bob Bayruns, general manager of Coakley High Peaks Ace Hardware.
While the road is in rough shape, residents and business owners say the sidewalks along the road are in even worse condition.
"The sidewalks are deplorable," said Dan Brownell of Gauthier's Saranac Lake Motor Inn. "We have people staying, between me and Jim (Murnane) at the Best Western in 100 hotel rooms, providing umpteen amounts of tax dollars to this whole community. They want to walk to town. How are they going to walk to town when they're going to break their ankle all the way down?"
"To get from my house into town, you can't just stay on the sidewalk," said Johnny Muldowney Jr., who lives along the road. "Either you're going on someone's private property, you're delving into the road, or you're going through a puddle. All I ask for is just a smooth surface so I can get into the community without having to worry about, 'Can I get there safely?'"
The village is in the middle of a major sidewalk replacement project throughout the community, but Lake Flower Avenue's sidewalks are not on that list. Mayor Clyde Rabideau said that if the village were to replace the sidewalks now, which he said would cost more than $1 million, they would be torn up within a few years when DOT rebuilds the road. The village is also planning to replace water and sewer infrastructure underneath the road when the DOT project gets underway.
Rabideau said Lake Flower Avenue is a high priority for the village. Last August, he said the village board sent a "strongly worded resolution" to the DOT and state representatives demanding the immediate rebuild of the road.
"We've been on this for a long time," Rabideau said. "We've already asked a lot of our representatives to be here on June 26, and we hope to see them here and flush out more of the answers for everybody. It's true this project has been pushed back time and time again."
The mayor said the project, when it's done, will take at least a year. He warned that some businesses may not survive the reconstruction of the road.
"It is going to be very inconvenient,'" Rabideau said. "We will advocate, if it's acceptable to the neighborhood, for nighttime construction. We will advocate for two-way traffic, which will be highly doubtful where (McKenzie) Slough intersects Lake Flower Avenue. This is fraught with peril, this project. That doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue it doggedly, and we will. But I want everybody to know, when the time comes, it's not going to be easy and businesses will suffer."
Although Lake Flower Avenue is technically in the terrain of Albany-based DOT Region 1, which includes Essex County, the section of state Route 86 in the village is actually under the control of Watertown-based DOT Region 7. Mike Flick, a DOT spokesman, confirmed Wednesday that the project remains on the back burner.
"We understand the needs and the wants of the community, but the short answer right now is there just isn't the money," he said.
Asked how it sets its priorities, Flick said the agency often has to find projects that provide "the best bang for the buck.
"Given the shortfall of funds, we try to stretch the money as far as we can, and quite often village jobs eat up a huge chunk of money but only address a small footprint of a project," he said. "That's not to say they're not important, but they do eat up a lot of money quick. If to reconstruct Lake Flower Avenue costs us, say, $12 million - if we wanted to do rehab, restoration, do ditch cleaning, patch up some cross pipes and some signs - you might be able to stretch that across 10 to 12 miles of highway somewhere."
While the section of Lake Flower Avenue that needs rebuilding is short, its residents and business owners say it's one of the most heavily traveled roads in the Adirondack Park. If they have to wait until 2020, "the road will never last that long," Bevilacqua said today. "It's gotta be done."
It's unclear whether the June 26 meeting and additional pushing by the region's elected representatives could lead DOT to move up the project. Another North Country community recently used a more creative approach to fast-track repairs to a section of state-maintained road. Residents in the town of Newcomb produced a comical YouTube video about the poor condition of state Route 28N. The video caught the eye of state transportation officials earlier this year, and they expedited repairs to the road.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.