CARMEL, N.Y. - It’s going to get noisy, dirty and congested along a good chunk of Route 6 in Carmel this summer, but in the end, it all will be worth the hassle, says the state Department of Transportation (DOT).

Once the DOT completes milling, filling and re-striping the heavily trafficked road, motorists will no longer have to dodge its potholes and cracked asphalt, engineer-in-charge Dina Colavito told officials from Carmel and surrounding communities at an informational meeting at Town Hall Monday, May 14.

The repaving project will involve a little more than 2 miles of Route 6 from the Route 52 “split”—near Reed Memorial Library in the hamlet of Carmel—to the Route 312 intersection.

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Drivers are already noticing orange cones, message boards and some delays as DOT crews work on drainage systems in preparation for the project expected to begin on June 11.

Once fully underway, repaving will take place between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays so as not to interfere with the morning and evening commute.
Once started—barring bad weather or other factors such as equipment failure—it should take about two to three weeks to finish, Colavito said.

Flaggers will use radios to communicate with counterparts at the other end of the queues so that the alternating lanes of traffic will flow as smoothly as possible.

Carmel Supervisor Ken Schmitt said the town knew the road project was coming but didn’t know exactly when until about two weeks ago.

Calling the conditions on that portion of Route 6 “horrible,” Schmitt said the town is grateful that the project will be done this year. But he and Southeast Supervisor Tony Hay, as well as Kenneth Clair Jr., acting commissioner of the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services, would prefer to see the work done at night when traffic is less.

Schmitt said performing work during the day is “going to be a big issue.”

The biggest fear is gridlock and the impact it will have on emergency vehicles, local businesses and the busing of schoolchildren, they say.

Putnam Hospital Center is located on Stoneleigh Avenue, an offshoot of Route 6. Putnam Plaza shopping center has a Tops supermarket, Wendy’s, Starbucks and many other stores. Merchants are worried that customers will avoid shopping there during the construction period.

According to Clair, the majority of fire and EMS calls occur between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.

In a letter to Schmitt and Hay, read at the meeting, he called daytime paving “unacceptable.”

“Brewster, Mahopac, Carmel are some of the busiest departments in the entire county,” Clair wrote. “Although we agree that this is a project we should not stall, it would have been nice if the state had done some pre-planning first.”

Scott Geiger, the DOT’s regional construction engineer, who was also at the Monday meeting, said crews are well-trained in getting emergency vehicles quickly through work sites.

Daytime roadwork costs the state less than that done at night, but there’s more to it than just “stretching a dollar,” Geiger told officials.

Paleen Construction Corp. has already been contracted to do the project, which was advertised as a day job, and, Geiger told officials, “we can’t force them to work at night.”

However, Paleen has agreed to do work on two nights to move the project “as far up the road as it can go,” Geiger said.

The state DOT can’t “squeeze every job into the summer when school’s out,” he said, adding that it barely has time to get all the repaving work done from April to October.

“Sometimes you can’t put the dollar in front of the inconveniences it’s going to cost,” Schmitt told Colavito and Geiger. “It’s a fiscal decision, but you have to look at the big picture.”

The DOT is going to do everything it can to communicate with local government, emergency and law enforcement officials, Colavito and Geiger both promised.
“Our whole goal is that you’re not going to be surprised,” Geiger said.

Schmitt said the towns plan to keep the public as informed as possible as the project progresses.

Carmel will post updates on its website, www.ci.carmel.ny.us/, and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Carmel.NY/ as well as issue regular press releases so the local media can help spread the word.

Southeast Councilwoman Lynne Eckardt pointed out that on Fridays, Route 6’s junction with Route 312, used by motorists to get onto and off Route 84, “is a living nightmare in the best of times.” She said thinking about the project’s potential impacts were giving her “flashbacks” about the widening of Route 6 across the Middle Branch Reservoir in Southeast 15 years ago.

“It’s going to be a mess,” admitted Kent Supervisor Maureen Fleming.

Colavito agreed that Fridays “are a pickle,” but promised to personally stay on top of things.

The DOT also vowed to be done by the time Carmel holds its annual Fourth of July parade, which always draws huge crowds to the area.

As with any major project, “Day One” is going to be rough, the DOT reps said.

But after the initial crunch, there is usually “20 to 30 percent less traffic” as drivers learn to avoid the area, Geiger said, adding, “People are pretty smart. They’ll go their own way, find their own routes without us having to detour them.”

The important thing, officials said, is to get the word out so motorists can plan accordingly.