February 19, 2004

Council Eyes Road Plan

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While Common Council members agree that increased commercial development in the city’s southwestern region necessitates additional travel routing, they are meticulously moving toward this goal, carefully assessing the challenges involved in extending Taughannock Blvd.

Last week, after learning that they had eleven months, rather than seven, to prepare an application for federal funding, the council decided to slow down road-extension efforts so that it could better assess the area’s geography, its economy and the general interests that road construction would have to respond to. This was of great relief to a council that had recently inherited the ambitious infrastructural commitments of the city’s previous administration under former Mayor Alan Cohen ’81.

Extending Taughannock Blvd. to provide additional access to the developing southwestern commercial district is one part of the “Six-Point Traffic Plan” drafted in 2003 by the previous Common Council. Seeking to alleviate some of the undesirable traffic situations that have undesirable traffic situations that have arisen and are projected to continue as the city continues to develop commercially, the plan champions efforts such as road extensions, bridges and the addition of lanes to accommodate more traffic.

“[The Common Council] came up with the ‘Six-Point Traffic Plan’ to address problems that would develop as a result of increased development in the city,” said Tom West ’83, assistant city engineer.

According to West, developers seek to extend Taughannock Blvd. such that the road begins at West State Street and extends all the way to the southwestern area of town where Tops, Wegmans and Kmart are currently located.

West estimates that the project, if implemented, will cost the city $15 million and will take anywhere from five to 10 years to complete.

Therefore, the city employees and the Common Council are taking time to gather comprehensive analyses of the area. The council has also expressed concern about the project being a potential nuisance to construct, because the road requires such an immense time and financial commitment.

“We want to make sure that the end product makes sense from the traffic point of view, the environmental point of view, and a commercial point of view,” West explained. “It’s got to meet a lot of needs.”

In January, the city’s Board of Public Works gave its approval for superintendent William Gray to contract LaBella Associates, an urban engineering firm. If hired, the firm would conduct a thorough study of the road construction initiative and eventually generate an expansion proposal for the road.

Last night, at the Common Council’s Planning, Neighborhoods & Economic Development Committee meeting, the committee considered the possibility of contracting such a project, and discussed the factors that would necessarily be considered in such a project. Considerations included accounting for 85 acres in undeveloped city-owned property and environmental preservation in the area. The committee seemed committed to identifying all of the factors that would affect or be affected by the development of an additional route in the area.

Informational Study

“[We need to determine] what information a study would provide,” said Mayor Carolyn Peterson. “It’s critical to decide what would be included in a study like this.”

If the Common Council cannot concur with the city’s Public Works in its authorization of a contract with LaBella, it may annul the decision or possibly seek an alternative approach to area surveillance.

Archived article by Ellen Miller

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