CHATHAM — Mayor Tom Curran met with members of CABA, the Chatham Area Business Alliance, last week at the group’s regular meeting to look over preliminary plans from the state to extend Main Street and close the intersection that is now the entrance to the village business district.
The mayor said the state has been trying to come up with a plan to improve the complex intersection of Hudson Avenue, Route 295, Main Street and the CSX railroad crossing on Main Street. After trying and failing to improve the intersection as part of the major roads and drainage upgrade project a few years ago – a traffic turnout was built and then blocked by the state before the turnout could be used — state Department of Transportation officials next proposed installing four traffic lights at that crossroads.
But the state apparently had second thoughts about the lights when DOT employees realized how costly they would be. The multiple lights plan also sparked complaints from CSX.
So now the DOT has proposed a new design that would reroute Main Street to the west, sending traffic between Herrington’s and Kinderhook Bank; past the bank Main Street would make a sharp turn, cross the tracks and intersect with Hudson Avenue/Route 66 near the building that houses MJ’s Sports Bar and Grill and across the street from The Chatham House restaurant. Traffic would flow as it does now at the intersection of Hudson Avenue and Route 295, except that there would be no railroad crossing or access to Main Street at that point for vehicles.
“They wanted to make this crossing safer,” said Mayor Curran of the state’s plans. “I think the light system is going to kill the village,” he told business owners of the original plan. He said that having lights and a railroad crossing would mean an even longer wait to get onto Main Street.
Since the state wrapped up work two years ago on a major road construction project in the village, many residents have complained about the inconvenient placement of crosswalks around the intersection, and there have been ongoing discussions about how to remedy the problems.
The new plan would mean a loss of parking spaces on Hudson Avenue and more construction in the village, which had to deal with two years of construction during the major road project. Local business owners are also concerned about new traffic problems cropping up just as the economy is looking more fragile and some stores on Main Street have closed.
But business owners at the Thursday morning’s meeting supported extending Main Street and changing the entrance so that Hudson Avenue stores like Video Visions and Chatham Holistic Hearing Arts become more accessible.
The section of Main Street that is now the entrance to the village would become green space, said the mayor, though he stressed the designs are very preliminary. He said the state wanted to see how residents would respond to the change before designing it in detail. “To have the crossing the way it is not an option,” he said, stressing that something is going to happen to improve the intersection.
“The impact on businesses needs to be a consideration,” said CABA President Kathy Stumph.