SARANAC LAKE - Village and state Department of Transportation officials sketched out an interim plan Monday to fix portions of Lake Flower Avenue, possibly as soon as next year, while a major overhaul of the road remains on the backburner.
The interim solution would involve upgrading some of the road's sidewalk, curbs and stormwater drainage, but it still has its share of question marks, none bigger than how it would be funded. The village and the state plan to partner on the short-term fix, which could cost roughly $1.2 million, but the DOT still has to engineer the project.
DOT officials also admitted some of the new sidewalks and drainage put in as part of this interim solution could ultimately be ripped out when the state gets around to rebuilding the road. That project is not on DOT's calendar until at least 2020.
Mark Frechette, acting director of Watertown-based state Department of Transportation Region 7, speaks Monday during a meeting with village officials on repairs to Lake Flower Avenue as village Trustee Paul Van Cott listens.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens talks with Lake Flower Avenue business owners during a Monday meeting at the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce office on River Street.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
DOT and village officials conducted a walking tour of a 1.1-mile stretch of Lake Flower Avenue, which is part of state Route 86, prior to a public work session in the village offices Monday afternoon.
The village had asked DOT leaders for the sit-down amid an outcry from residents and business owners along the road who say it's in deplorable condition and is unsafe for pedestrians and motorists. A major rebuild of the road has been talked about for at least 15 years, but it's never moved past the preliminary design stage and continues to be pushed back.
"This is a project that DOT recognizes needs to get done," Watertown-based DOT Region 7 Acting Director Mark Frechette said at the start of Monday's meeting. "Where we're at right now is trying to find the funding to make this a reality."
Frechette said a full reconstruction of the road could cost $14 million to $15 million. His agency only has funding through October of next year, when the current federal transportation bill expires.
"Whenever the next federal transportation bill comes out, we will be looking at how much money is coming to New York state, how much money is coming to the North Country and where this project is going to fit in to the priorities of the North Country," Frechette said. "I think today it's going to be most useful to talk about what we can do in the interim."
Mayor Clyde Rabideau said the village will keep the pressure on DOT to get the reconstruction moved up sooner than 2020. In the meantime, he said, village and DOT officials have crafted an interim plan to fix what he called an important and well-traveled gateway to the village.
The short-term fix would address what Rabideau said are the "top three most pressing" needs on the road: sidewalks, curbs and stormwater drainage. The village has held off on replacing sidewalks along the road, at an estimated cost of $800,000, because the state would ultimately tear them out when it rebuilds the road.
Rabideau said Monday that the village, in partnership with the state, could replace roughly half of the sidewalks so that they meet DOT's engineering specifications for its eventual rebuild of the road. He also said the village could fix the stormwater drainage in some areas where water often pools up after a rainstorm. Funding for the project would be sought through a state program that provides funds for Americans with Disabilities Act-related projects, Rabideau said.
"There would be invariably some sections (of sidewalk) that would have to be removed, but our goal would be to keep whatever would be built in the short term and not have to waste that investment," Frechette said. "I think the drainage work that the mayor talked about is a stop-gap to get us to a bigger project, and we would most likely rip out all the drainage."
DOT would repave sections of the road after the interim work is done, Frechette said.
Rabideau said the goal would be to have the work start in late fall, continue in early spring and have the new sidewalks built by next summer.
The short-term fix wouldn't address some of the other projects the village wants to do as part of the road rebuild, including burying utility lines along Lake Flower Avenue and replacing water and sewer pipes under the road.
State Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, toured the road with village and DOT officials and attended the work session. He said he was encouraged by the dialogue between the village and the state.
"Short of somebody saying, 'Here's a check for $15 million,' which I don't see happening, it's not a bad outcome to do these stop-gaps for the next year-and-a-half and then come back for the big project," Stec said. "A project like this takes a couple years to engineer the full rebuild anyway."
Town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi and Franklin County Legislator and Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun, who was representing Sen. Betty Little, were also on hand for the meeting.
Earlier Monday, U.S. Rep Bill Owens met with a pair of Lake Flower Avenue business owners, Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Katy Van Anden and village Manager John Sweeney to discuss how he could help with the project.
"Congressman, we've got a mess on Lake Flower Avenue," said Jim Murnane, owner of the Best Western Mountain Lake Inn and a town of Harrietstown councilman. "We've got a myriad of concerns, pedestrian safety being paramount among them, and motorist safety. Every time it rains, the ponding and the drainage is just awful."
"This is the most heavily traveled road in the Adirondack Park by every estimation I've heard," said Harrietstown Supervisor and Carcuzzi Car Care Center owner Bob Bevilacqua. "It's just in bad shape. It's the entrance to the village of Saranac Lake, and it should be a beautiful entrance."
Owens said he'd be happy to send DOT a letter urging it to move up the full rebuild of the road. He also said he'd look into any potential federal funding sources for the project, but he didn't make any promises. He noted the chances of increased funding in the next federal transportation bill are "very slim.
"We will poke around, and maybe we can jar something loose," Owens said.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.