April 20, 2023

KEMPFF | The Driving Battle on Buffalo Street

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I brace myself everyday for the feeling. Bump bump bump crash. 

It’s part of the daily battle that drivers in Collegetown know all too well. It’s the fight down Buffalo Street. Crumbling concrete and constant potholes create a dangerous mix that punishes my car’s suspension on a daily basis. 

This scene, unfortunately, is interchangeable with many in Collegetown. Driving in Ithaca can often be a challenge, from the lack of parking in the Commons to the constant uphill climbing. But a lack of maintenance on Collegetown streets, particularly in the area surrounding Stewart Avenue, is a major concern for student drivers. 

The Stewart Avenue problem is uniquely difficult. At one point, Collegetown was probably filled with a charming string of cobblestone streets, paved with bumpy red bricks. While I’m sure that this worked great for the horse-drawn carriages and cars of the past, it’s not friendly to my 2011 Ford Explorer. This beauty barely survived the drive from the midwest to school, and saying it’s on its last legs would be an understatement. 

Someone at the city of Ithaca realized this and decided that it needed to be modernized. Unfortunately, the solution was to put in a patchwork of modern concrete at varying points. Even worse, much of this modern work seems to have gone neglected in recent years. This has led to numerous potholes, crumbling gravel and constant problems for my car. 

The issues, unfortunately, are not confined to Stewart. I can name many places around Collegetown that are in significant need of paving. 

Another problem that factors into drivers’ misery is the timelines of construction projects (or lack thereof). 

Anyone who has spent time in Collegetown in recent years can attest to the mayhem that was College Avenue. A number of projects (more than just paving) were undertaken on the street. But the construction was neverending, dragging on for months and months. It made driving in Collegetown a nightmare for multiple years. 

A similar story seems to be taking place on Oak Avenue. The street has been completely torn up for multiple weeks, and there seems to be no quick end to the work. Driving down Oak in its current state is probably the most difficult driving that I’ve done in Collegetown, which is saying a lot.

The worst of them all might be Cook Street. It’s a disaster zone, with crumbling concrete posing a risk every trip down.

I’m not discounting the city for its recent projects — many students appreciate them. I have painful memories of driving down Williams in prior years, as I’m sure many other people do. But last semester, the city decided that enough was enough. They repaved the street, and now it’s great to go down. And although the College Avenue construction took years, it’s now much easier to navigate.

 But there are still many more projects that need to be done, hopefully on a faster time frame. 

Anyone who’s had the displeasure of driving through Collegetown the morning of a school day can speak to the extraordinary congestion. Narrow streets and a high density of people make backups inevitable in Collegetown. Coupling this with inadequately maintained streets and long, drawn out construction projects makes driving in Collegetown a difficult endeavor. 

It’s kind of fun hitting the corner where Buffalo turns into Stewart — it’s like going to an amusement park. You bounce and jump, and get to hear the bump bump bump crash. But I know that my car’s shocks don’t agree with me. The city should examine whether they can contribute more resources to maintaining more Collegetown streets at a faster pace. It would save us all an extraordinary amount of time, stress and money on our car bills. 

Brendan Kempff is a senior in the Hotel School. He can be reached at [email protected]. Slope Side runs every other Thursday this semester.