By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — Driving on Southside Oneonta could be smoother in the future.
The state Department of Transportation plans to preserve highways on Southside this year, instead of reviving a reconstruction project.
The DOT is gearing up for an estimated $1.5 million paving project starting this spring on state routes 23 and 28 in the town of Oneonta and including a jog onto lower Main Street in the city. Roads would be restored by milling and repaving, officials said.
The road work is necessary, agreed city and town officials who expressed confidence the DOT would consider the impact of construction on traffic during the spring and summer months.
Improvements to Southside’s highways have been under discussion for a decade or more. In previous versions, the DOT studied the addition of roundabouts to control traffic and proposed widening the Southside retail corridor with up to five lanes of traffic and adding amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists.
DOT spokesman David Hamburg said the state is going ahead with work to preserve the roadway instead of waiting until a larger project can be afforded.
The project, estimated at $1.5 million, will resurface 1.51 miles of Route 28 and 0.79 miles of Route 23, and 0.65 miles of Route 992D in the Otsego County town and city, the DOT website said. Funding will be from federal and state but no local resources.
The DOT sent a letter dated Feb. 27 to elected leaders, community officials and law enforcement agencies with details about the project and to seek comments. Hartwick College officials, who support the project, responded to remind DOT officials that May is a busy month with visitors coming to Oneonta for graduations and other student activities.
The project will preserve and extend the pavement life by milling to a depth of 2 inches and resurfacing with 2 inches of asphalt concrete pavement, DOT officials said. The roads in the project area are weathered, oxidized and have potholes, officials said, and some sections have ruts.
No drainage, guard rail, sidewalk or sign work is planned with this project, DOT officials said.
Oneonta Town Supervisor Robert Wood welcomed the project because the roads are in “bad shape.’’
The project will run along state Route 23 from near the entrance to the Lantern Hill Mobile Home Park near Walmart to state Route 28 and along that highway to county Road 48, DOT officials said. Paving will be done on lower Main Street between Route 28 to state Route 7, which is the intersection of Chestnut and Main streets in the city of Oneonta.
“This is progress — this is something that really needs to be done,’’ Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said.
City Manager Michael Long has met with DOT officials and will continue to address any concerns about accommodating traffic, Miller said.
“The DOT paves roads all the time,’’ Miller said.
Hamburg said plans for construction on the Main Street section are to have crews working at night to avoid heavy traffic between 8 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m. DOT officials will meet with contractors in pre-construction meetings to discuss other ways to accommodate concerns, he said.
Work zone traffic control for the Southside project will maintain two-way traffic and will include short-term, alternating lane closures with flag personnel directing traffic, the DOT letter said.
The Southside retail stripe includes Southside Mall, Hannaford grocery store and plaza, Home Depot, McDonald’s and Wendy’s restaurants, the Neptune Diner and Walmart, among many other businesses. No businesses were included on the DOT distribution list for the letter about the project.
“It’s a great thing that they’re going to come through and restore the road,’’ Luisa Montanti, mall manager at Southside Mall on Route 23, said Thursday. Summertime is a busy time for Southside and is important to the local tourism industry, which raises concerns about when and how the project would be done, said Montanti, who also voiced confidence in how DOT would plan the project and monitor traffic.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new Drivers First initiative directs the DOT to emphasize motorist convenience, the DOT letter said.
Kelly Zack-Decker, senior assistant to the president at Hartwick College, said the college supports the project but wanted to be sure that the DOT was aware of higher traffic volumes in May.
Hartwick College’s graduation is set for May 25, Zack-Decker said, and a student scholarship showcase the weekend of May 10 and 11 attracts parents, alumni and the college’s trustees, who will be meeting at the campus. Visitors also spend time at hotels and restaurants, she said.
At the State University College at Oneonta, graduation is set for May 18.
“The month of May is a very busy one,’’ Zack-Decker said.
SUNY Oneonta spokesman Hal Legg said the college didn’t have a comment about the project.
Hamburg said bids were due last week and will be reviewed in weeks ahead, with the award going to the lowest, responsible bidder.
Construction can start no earlier than May 6, Hamburg said, and could start as late as June 3, but work must be completed by Aug. 28. The project is expected to last about 45 days, officials said.
In December 2008, DOT officials said budget constraints, the flood of 2006 and repairs to a slope on Route 23 added up to delays for any reconstruction project for at least seven years. In 2008, the reconstruction project was estimated to cost about $15 million, and that year, the DOT said funds wouldn’t be available for a reconstruction project until at least 2015.
The state’s highways on Southside Oneonta run parallel to Interstate 88, and motorists can leave I-88 at exits 14 and 15 to access state routes 28 or 23.