State offers to reroute village street instead of adding lights
CHATHAM – The Village Board hosted a morning meeting December 20 with community members and representatives from the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and the rail company CSX to talk about changes planned for the intersection of Routes 66/Hudson Avenue and 295.
Jim Rapoli, the head of DOT’s planning unit, said several times at the meeting that the state has decided to change the intersection for safety reasons, mainly because it involves a train crossing. The state is planning to put traffic lights on both routes and on Main Street and Park Row. All the lights would turn red when a train is coming and would return to their regular rotation when the track is clear.
“The project is currently moving forward with the signaling… for safety reasons,” Mr. Rapoli told the residents and business owners who attended the meeting. But there is another option, he said, adding that Mayor Tom Curran had brought it to his attention. Instead of using lights, the state could reroute Main Street further north, closing off the current crossing and creating both a new railroad crossing east of the old railroad station (now a branch of the Kinderhook Bank) and a new intersection with Route 66 and across from the Chatham House, which houses restaurants and retail spaces.
This approach is actually an old plan, Mr. Rapoli said, but it was rejected during the public planning process that preceded the major, two year-long road and drainage project in the village that the state completed a couple of years ago.
If the state does reroute the east end of Main Street it would have to build a new road between MJ’s Bar and Grill and the bank and traffic headed toward Hudson would pass in front Herrington’s lumber yard and building supply store before making a sharp left turn, crossing the railroad tracks at a new point and intersecting Route 66/Hudson Avenue. The current intersection would become a green space with no vehicle traffic. Routes 295 and 66 would connect as they do now.
“We are doing this as a courtesy to the village,” the DOT officials said of the state’s willingness to consider the alternative plan. “We are willing to listen, but we’re not going to battle,” he said of changing the plan.
The project for the lights is already scheduled to start next summer, Mr. Rapoli said. He asked the mayor and the Trustees Lael Locke, Dave Chapman and Joanne DelRossi, who attended the meeting (Trustee George Grant was not present) to get back to him as soon as possible about what direction they want the state to take.
“A signal system is very expensive,” Mr. Rapoli said of the project, and the state agency has already allocated funds for it. Mr. Rapoli told the group that it was at least a $1-million project and moving Main Street would cost almost exactly the same amount.
Business owners on Hudson Avenue said they worried about the loss of eight parking spaces if Main Street is moved. Ed Herrington, the owner of Herrington’s, said he worried about losing the “nose in” parking he has in front of his store now. “I don’t know how you parallel park a truck with a trailer on it,” he said at the meeting.
But Mr. Herrington said he supported the plan.
Mr. Rapoli said if the state moves forward with rerouting Main Street he would work with Mr. Herrington about space for his deliveries and parking for his store.
Mayor Curran thanked the state for looking at the village’s proposal. “We are very lucky to have this opportunity.”
Trustee DelRossi proposed holding a public hearing before the next board meeting Thursday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m. The board made no decisions at the meeting.