Proposed DRI project would link Depot, Cedar streets

Extended roadway would run alongside section of proposed rail trail

The intersection of the rail corridor and Cedar Street, which would become the intersection of Depot Street and Cedar Street if the project is completed according to current plans, is seen Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — A village-sponsored Downtown Revitalization Project would connect Depot Street to Cedar Street, if funded and approved by the state.

The project would add an estimated 1,570 feet of new roadway onto Depot Street, which currently terminates by the former Branch & Callanan warehouse.

Out of the $14.5 million in DRI projects submitted to the state for DRI funding, $9.7 million will be awarded through the economic revitalization grant program started by Gov. Andrew Cuomo three years ago.

The estimated total project cost to extend the road and add a retaining wall is $1,478,000, with a DRI ask of $1,356,000.

The village would cover the $122,000 difference if the project is awarded the grant.

The current end of Depot Street behind the Union Station in Saranac Lake is seen Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

“If you walk the tracks from the depot building through Cedar Street, the state owns that whole corridor through there,” village Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski said.

Depot Street would be extended to run through that corridor, alongside that section of the proposed rail trail.

She said the plans for the street extension are currently under review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Department of Transportation. While a final determination has not been made, she said so far, the village has received a favorable impression from the state agencies.

If the agencies decline the proposal, the project will not proceed.

“If the project, after that state evaluation process is completed by the DEC — if we have that approval, and the project is selected for DRI funding, it would then go through a full environmental review, and there would be public hearings as part of that process so everyone would have an opportunity to provide input,” Konkoski said.

The proposed rail trail that the road would run alongside is currently in the planning phases with the DEC and Adirondack Park Agency. It is expected that the DEC will finalize their Unit Management Plan this summer — the agency’s plan to take over maintenance of the trail from the DOT, which oversees the corridor.

According to some early design work and preliminary engineering done by M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying and the rest of the DRI consulting team, there’s enough width for the trail and the road to exist side by side.

Preliminary drawings or drafts were not available at this time, said Jaclyn Hakes, director of planning services with M.J., as the DRI process is still ongoing.

Konkoski said there would not be any bike or pedestrian amenities constructed alongside the road by the village, as they are expected to be offered on the adjacent trail.

When first looking at the project, the village looked at alternate routes that would’ve cut through private property alongside the corridor.

“That would be multiple property owners, versus the path of least resistance, which is very clearly through the rail corridor, if the state is agreeable,” Konkoski said.

But those other connections could still be made depending on how the area is potentially developed. She said the idea was to leave that up to private interests in the future.

Toward the end of the proposed extension, where the tracks intersect with Cedar Street, there is a significant grade change, and the corridor narrows.

“Some of that bank may be excavated and a retaining wall put in place to make sure that there’s enough room,” Konkoski said. “The thing that’s deceiving, I think, is that a good portion of that embankment is part of the state right of way.”

While detailed engineering plans have not been carried out, Konkoski said, at this time, there doesn’t seem to be a need for private property lines to be affected.

“The existing public rail right of way is sufficient,” Konkoski said.

The village found that there’s around 6 acres that have the potential to be developed in the Depot area, Konkoski said.

“If this area has been identified in plans, dating back a number of years, but nothing has ever happened, we were looking for ways to remove some of the barriers that are known and incentivize private investment in the area,” Konkoski said.

The proposed extension would join with Cedar Street right next to BluSeed Studios. While their board has not had a formal discussion on the topic, BluSeed’s Operations Director-Events and Outreach Coordinator Kathleen Recchia said the project’s goal — to unify downtown and direct more traffic to the area — was a good one.

She said the village has met with individual members of the board to discuss the project.

“What we were told is that they would only be using state land, so assuming everything goes according to the plan, it should be fine,” Recchia said.

BluSeed has its own DRI project for an elevator that was submitted to the state as well. This coincides with a general facelift to the property as part of its master plan — including exterior and interior renovations that BluSeed is planning to undertake.

“It doesn’t look like it affects the way we were planning things,” Recchia said.

Konkoski said that, if funded by the DRI and approved by the state, the village would start more intensive design work in the spring of next year, the way things are looking right now.