Road dwellers tell DOT: the less the better

STUYVESANT–Tensions ran high late last month at a meeting of town residents called by the state officials to discuss the fate of Ferry Road. What the officials heard from residents was strong support for leaving in place the current railroad crossing gates at the intersection of Ferry Road and state Route 9J.

Since 1996, town residents have been dealing with the possibility that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) might close Ferry Road, which intersects Route 9J south of the Stuyvesant hamlet. The DOT considers the railroad crossing a potential hazard to motorists and trains. The latest chapter in this ongoing saga began this June with the release by the DOT of a Draft Scoping Report that includes a list of seven options for the road, ranging from doing nothing to closing the road and taking the homes there by power of eminent domain.

Part of the road is within the state Nutten Hook State Unique Area; it’s also one of six Hudson River access points in the county, and two of the five homes on the 1,600-foot-long lane are listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places. Officials worry that trains travel at high speed along that stretch of track and the short turnout between Route 9J and the tracks could lead to a serious vehicle-train accident.

No accidents have occurred at this intersection since records have been maintained.

Back in 1996 the state sought to close Ferry Road and make Ice House Road, a short distance north, the main point of access to the Hudson. Ice House Road crosses the tracks further from Route 9J, so the DOT considers it a less dangerous crossing. Since 1996 the DOT has modified its plans several times, and the department was responding to a 2010 order by an administrative law judge that it produce a report on the matter by the end of June. The release of the Draft Scoping Report led to the meeting August 30 at Town Hall, where DOT officials held a public workshop to discuss all seven of the department’s options for the future of Ferry Road.

“This meeting is not to discuss past proposals but to discuss what options are now available now,” Town Supervisor Ron Knott told the approximately 75 people in attendance that evening. The August 30 meeting was only the first of several such sessions, with the next one tentatively planned for sometime in November, said Theresa Dewey, the DOT public involvement manager for this project. “This is public workshop one,” Ms. Dewey said, adding, “We want input on different concepts.”

Mark Kruk the DOT project engineer presented the seven different proposals after which the residents attending the session voted on which ones they would prefer to discuss further.

The proposals presented are:

*Alternative 1, “no build,” which would not provide any improvement to the existing conditions *Alternative 2, traffic signal interconnected with the crossing gates of the Route 9J and Ferry Road intersection

*Alternative 3, realignment of Route 9J to increase the space between the intersection and crossing

*Alternative 4, major realignment of Route 9J to increase space between the intersection and the crossing and eliminate non-standard horizontal curves

*Alternative 5, a “grade separation” carrying Ferry Road over the railroad

*Alternative 6, close the Ferry Road crossing and construct a connector road between Ferry Road and Ice House Road

*Alternative 7, complete closure of Ferry Road and acquisition of the property.

When residents had their say and votes were taken, alternatives 1 and 2–doing nothing or adding a traffic light–received the most support from Stuyvesant residents.

Reached after the meeting by email, Ferry Road resident Michael D. McNulty said the event was “a choreographed workshop” the left no room for general discussion, but nonetheless he was optimistic that those who attended got a chance to express their views alternatives. By placing colored stickers on the DOT’s seven options, it was clear that only the first three were acceptable to the local residents at the meeting.

He said the option of closing the road received no support.

John Hutchinson, another Ferry Road resident who participated in the meeting said by email that he was not sure what the session accomplished and questioned whether the lack of votes for Alternative 7 would mean the department would now eliminate that choice.

Both Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. McNulty believe that a traffic light similar to one on Route 9J in Castleton might resolve DOT concerns about the safety of the intersection.

“I just hope our elected officials will take note that the people of Stuyvesant and Columbia County do not want to sacrifice precious Hudson River access and see historic homes bulldozed when there are practical, inexpensive and creative ways to make the Ferry Road crossing even safer than it is today,” Mr. Hutchinson wrote.

At the meeting Ms. Dewey told the audience, “DOT will follow with as many public workshops as necessary to narrow down the options and pick a solution that everyone is happy with.”

More on the proposals and the history of the area involved is at the website set up by Ferry Road residents, www.saveferryroad.com. It includes a link to the state Draft Scoping Report.

 

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