CARMEL, N.Y. - A portion of Fair Street in the hamlet of Carmel will undergo a major renovation beginning next fall at a cost of $12.5 million.
While the county is overseeing the project, federal money will fund most of it, with the county covering 20 percent—maybe less— of the bill.
Fred Pena, county commissioner of highways and facilities, said that the idea to rehabilitate the road dates back to the mid-1990s.
“They were talking about straightening the sharp curve past the high school, but the plan was way too aggressive,” Pena told Mahopac News. “It would have eliminated 12 homes and it didn’t achieve the goals they wanted.”
When Pena assumed the commissioner’s post in 2012, he sought to resurrect some of the federal projects that had been relegated to the back burner—the Fair Street project among them.
“We reviewed it as a stalled project and restoked it,” Pena said. “There are several culverts that are dilapidated, and the pavement is at the end of its useful life.”
The project is expected to start next summer and take nearly two years to complete. It’s projected to wrap up in the spring of 2022. It begins at the intersection of Fair Street and Route 52 (Gleneida Avenue) at its westerly end and extends approximately 1.3 miles east along Fair Street to a point 1,300 feet east of the intersection of Fair Street with Hill and Dale Road.
“It will create turning lanes by the high school, improving the entrance there that has caused a lot of congestion,” Pena said. “There is a whole list of elements, including sidewalks. It will extend the beautification project started in Carmel a few years ago and drop the utilities below ground and be consistent with those aesthetic features.”
A complete list of the primary objectives of the project includes:
• Providing safety enhancements by improving non-standard roadway features.
• Mitigating congestion at the Route 52/Fair Street intersection as well as at Carmel High School.
• Restoring pavement to good condition using cost-effective pavement treatments that provide a service life of 15 years.
• Improving roadway drainage by constructing a new closed-drainage system with adequate capacity to collect and convey surface runoff.
• Providing a sidewalk connecting the residential community to Carmel High School and downtown Carmel and continuing sidewalk beautification from Gleneida Avenue to Vink Drive.
Today, the roadway generally consists of two lanes that vary in width from 10 to 11 feet with a shoulder that varies in width from 0 to 4 feet. Pavement distress ranging from low to high severity is apparent throughout and includes wheel path cracking and rutting. Pedestrian facilities along Fair Street are limited to concrete sidewalks located between Route 52 and Vink Drive along the north side of the roadway, and between Route 52 and Carmel High School along the south side. The existing horizontal and vertical geometry, along with roadside features (trees, utility poles and back slopes in close proximity to the roadway) result in a number of non-standard features related to curve radius, vertical grade and sight distances. There are three existing culvert structures within the project limits that need replacement.
Pena said that while the sharp S-curve won’t be eliminated, it will be “tamed” somewhat without having to buy and demolish 12 homes. However, the county will still need to acquire additional rights-of-way for widening the road and building a sidewalk, which means it will have to purchase small strips of land from Fair Street property owners. To do that, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) procedures will be followed. All properties will be appraised, and a “just compensation will be determined,” the plan states. Owners will have input all along the process.
Pena said one house will likely be purchased and razed for the project.
“There is one house that gets regularly flooded and the homeowner has indicated that he’d be willing to sell,” Pena said. “We are putting in lanes there that are of a more appropriate width.”
The project proposes to reconstruct the existing roadway with a better vertical and horizontal alignment and replace the three culverts that carry Michael Brook and its tributary under Fair Street. In addition, improvements to traffic control, drainage, and safety will be incorporated into the final design.
The proposed improvements include these:
• Two 14-foot shared (vehicles and bicycles) travel lanes with curb constructed on an improved horizontal and vertical alignment.
• Existing sidewalks will be reconstructed. The northern sidewalk will be extended from the post office (Vink Drive) to Hill and Dale Road.
• A left-turn lane will be provided on Fair Street at its intersection with Route 52 and transition to a two-way left-turn lane that will serve School Street, the post office, Vink Drive, and Carmel High School.
• The project will also include a new closed-drainage system along Fair Street. Collected stormwater runoff will be conveyed to a new detention basin and discharged into Michael Brook downstream of the project.
• The Michael Brook culvert (at Waring Drive) and the two tributary culverts (between DeColores and Glenna Drive) will be replaced with new concrete box culverts at the same locations.
Fair Street is a main connector from residential neighborhoods to the hamlet’s commercial center as well as Carmel High School, and officials say community cohesion will benefit from the proposed improvements to pedestrian and bicyclist facilities. These facilities will provide an improved link for pedestrians and bicyclists between individual residences, neighborhoods and subdivisions, and to the high school. Geometric improvements to both the horizontal and vertical alignment will improve vertical sight distance and offer standard superelevation transitions that will provide safer travel conditions for motorists.
As things now stand, the county would pay 20 percent of the $12.5 million cost, but Pena said that could change. He said funds are available that could reduce the county’s share to just 5 percent, but the federal government would have to approved construction before the county could apply for them.
The project’s final design is expected to be completed this winter. The land acquisitions will be completed next summer, which is also when the project will be awarded to the contractor.
Questions and comments about the project can be emailed to Zenon Wojcik, the program manager, at Zenon.Wojcik@putnamcountyny.gov.