I am one of many people living west of the Wallkill River who has very mixed emotions regarding the New Paltz Town Planning Board’s July 25th approval of the Mohonk Preserve Foothills project. The point of this letter is not to take issue with the project itself. I realize, at this point, it is a done deal, water under the temporary bridge, if you will. While I look forward to the rich and diverse benefits the Foothills will afford the New Paltz community, I remain concerned about how the added traffic will negatively impact residents who must cross Route 299 to get into town. So I would like to take this opportunity to suggest a modest, relatively inexpensive and practical proposal that might mitigate the lengthy traffic backups that many of us will no doubt face once the Foothills project is up and running.
First, some numbers. By my count there are presently 23 weekend days of the calendar year where traffic on Route 299 approaching the bridge into New Paltz already backs up across the farm fields known as the Flats, often beyond the Wallkill View Farm stand. These days include four craft fair days, two county fair weekend days, the Taste of New Paltz, two Ribfest days, and 14 fall days of weekend leaf-peepers. Additionally, there are the weekend days in June, July and August when late-afternoon traffic can typically start building a few hundred feet beyond Springtown Road. The idea that the Foothills will soon be adding 200 more vehicles a day that will occupy its 100 parking spots (and even more additional cars that will be generated by the 150 new spots being added to the 200 spots at the newly expanded Minnewaska lot) is enough to give a west-of-the-Wallkill resident considerable pause.
I have a rather simple idea that would let people like me know in advance of leaving the house just how much traffic is sitting in the fields. Perhaps Route 299 could use a traffic camera, possibly located on the roof of Wallkill View Farm or on a post somewhere in the field. Live traffic images could then be viewed on the New Paltz Town website or the Foothills website or be available on a Foothills app, or all three. A traffic-cam would allow people to gauge the traffic before heading to town and plan accordingly. It would also serve to let people like me know that the best option might sometimes be taking a longer, more out-of-the-way alternate route into town. This would not only save residents considerable drive time, but it would allow locals to avoid adding their vehicles to the crawl of cars crossing the flats. Perhaps the Mohonk Preserve might agree to pay the modicum of expense that this would entail as an act of good will to those who will be otherwise inconvenienced by the Foothills project.
Call it a traffic cam, a Flats cam, a cornfield cam, or some other cute name. I call it a simple, inexpensive and efficient way to address what is sure to be something of a terrible inconvenience at best or a traffic nightmare at worst.