CORTLANDT, N.Y. – The New York Department of Transportation might need to go back to the drawing board on proposed improvements along the Bear Mountain Parkway.
About 100 residents attended meetings in Peekskill on Wednesday and Cortlandt on Thursday to hear about a $3 million planned safety improvement project to 3.5 miles of the Bear Mountain Parkway. The meetings were the culmination of petitions and letters from Cortlandt officials asking the Transportation Department to improve the parkway following the deaths of five people in traffic accidents in the past eight years and about 80 accidents in the past three years.
The plan calls for adding a median barrier, reducing the speed limit on most of the parkway to 45 mph and cutting the four lanes in some areas down to two lanes with left-turn slots.
Many residents in attendance Thursday night thanked the department for attempting to address the concerns, but dozens more said the proposed improvements were not enough. Cortlandt Town Board member John Sloan said he was “disappointed” after hearing the proposal.
“Unfortunately the way it’s been addressed is not the way we envisioned,” Sloan said during Thursday night’s meeting, adding that he was opposed to several parts of the plan. “The layout over the 3.5 miles is confusing and inconsistent, and I think in many ways it creates hazards that it tries to cure.”
The initial plan on the project was to have most construction complete by the end of this year, said William Gorton, DOT regional director. But with so many residents advocating for greater improvements and suggesting alternatives to the plan, Gorton said, the project could be delayed or canceled.
“This is what quick is. We take the existing conditions we have and we address the most compelling problem we have that we were asked to address,” Gorton said. “If there is that strong of an advocacy to not lose the lane, then we will not be here this summer and we will not be doing this type of job.”
Gorton later noted that to make all of the improvements that the Transportation Department and many residents would like to make, the project would cost more than $20 million. He said that cost was the primary reason the project was delayed until this year.
“All of those other things take time to develop,” he said. “The objective was to get something done and get it done quick and get the crossover and fatality accidents to stop. And this is what you get with fast and cheap. That’s where we are. We don’t have the budget to do the major reconstruction.”
Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said she would maintain contact with the DOT and hoped department officials would return in six weeks for another public meeting that would address public concerns.
“My suggestion is to go back to the drawing board and come back,” Puglisi said. “I think everybody in the room agrees that some improvements need to be made. We need to tweak it and take all of your comments into consideration.”