$1.5 million Potsdam road project delayed up to a year
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - 9:19 am

By CRAIG FREILICH

POTSDAM – A major $1.5 million road, sidewalk and bicycle lane construction project has been delayed for up to a year.

The Potsdam Walk-Bike Enhancement Project is part of $81 million in non-traditional transportation projects statewide announced in early April 2009, paid for with federal stimulus funding. The project will rebuild stretches of Clarkson Avenue and Pine Street, build new sidewalks in several places in the village, and designate bike routes and mark actual bike lanes on some roads.

The project is taking longer than expected to get started primarily because the federal funding is forcing officials to take into account regulations and requirements that don’t have to be dealt with when working on locally-funding projects.

At the time of the announcement last spring, village developer and planner Fred Hanss said he hoped the design work might be done by the end of last summer, with actual work starting maybe as soon as last fall, but it didn’t turn out that way.

The plan is to build sidewalks and designate more “shared roadway” status for bicycles throughout the village, and make some actual bike lanes where there is room, connecting the colleges and residential areas with downtown, according to Hanss.

The plans include sidewalks and bike lanes along Clarkson Avenue, and resurfacing the road from Bagdad Road to Maple Street, coinciding with Clarkson University’s goal of making its campus more walkable and bikeable.

Other transportation enhancements along the same lines are planned elsewhere in the village, Hanss said, to include sidewalk improvements along Pine Street and May Road, and the shared roadway designation along Leroy Street, Lawrence Avenue, along Main, Elm and Maple Streets, and from the Pine Street Arena to Maple Street. Hanss says Pierrepont Avenue might be included in the bicycle roadway designation work.

Enabled with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Acts stimulus plan, the state Department of Transportation called Potsdam officials last year and asked if they would like full funding for the project, which Potsdam had planned for some time before that call. Potsdam officials of course said they would accept the funding, even though that project was not on the “wish list” of stimulus-money projects the village had submitted.

The village now has a completed Final Design Report, finished last month by consultants at Rochester firm Stantec, but developing it was somewhat more involved than village officials had anticipated.

“It’s a fairly complex document,” Hanss said, involving speed studies, accident data, surveys of all the roadways in the project, and the actual plan going through a couple of versions before the final report was done.

Hanss said the village is “really pleased with their work on this project,” referring to Stantec.

“They have a lot of experience with highway work, especially with the Transportation Enhancement Program. We’ve all benefited from their experience.”

Stantec’s help was useful because federal money was involved, and “the Federal Highway Manual comes into play. It’s not like repairing Leroy Street, which is all local. There are some requirements that are outside the usual,” Hanss said.

Now that the plan is in hand, Hanss says the next steps involve “several layers of review at the state DOT office in Watertown, but they also want to see this out to bid as quickly as possible. I’m pretty confident they’re moving as fast as they can.”

At a hearing on the project in March this year, it was thought that bids would be let this year, and some work, such as along May Road, would be done this year. That’s still possible, Hanss says, but most of the work, including the more extensive work along Clarkson Avenue, probably won’t start before next year.

“It depends on when contractors have other work lined up and when the asphalt plants close for the season,” Hanss said.

But no matter when, Hanss said, “it’s still going to be a great project.”