It was only a month ago that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection formally announced the completion of its multi-year improvement project for Route 28A in the town of Olive, first promised after the city closed down the old “lemon squeeze” viaduct roadway running from West Shokan to the Dividing Weir over the Ashokan Reservoir to Ashokan, Boiceville, and Route 28 proper. But for most locals, awe had struck months earlier when portions of the $15 million “Reconstruction and Realignment” designed to “enhance safety” and “prevent damage from future storms” first became drivable.
Those who don’t drive the once unusually windy road regularly started hearing about it from jazzed Olive residents excited by their new driving course, banked like a race track and designed to move them up and over the reservoir so fast many didn’t know where they were being transported. Those who do travel the road regularly, even if only on weekends, talked about sped-up journeying…and amazement that such an expensive piece of roadway would be plunked down in such a rural area.
“The improvements to Route 28A have made the road safer for everyone who uses it and facilitates additional recreational opportunities,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland in an early August press release. “The straightened road, improved sight lines, and wider shoulders will ensure drivers see each other and also the many cyclists and joggers who use 28A to enjoy the outdoors.”
In addition to realigning sections of the roadway to remove dangerous, sharp curves and to straighten the road, the city installed turning lanes at intersections, along with two crosswalks, replaced culverts, swales and catch basins to improve drainage and stormwater management, completed major structural upgrades to six bridges (including surface replacement), removed trees to open views of oncoming vehicles (as well as the local scenery), and secured enough room to allow for joggers and cyclists.
New recreation access
In earlier years, when the monumental reservoir was first built and the decades after, roads around the Ashokan were designed as a showcase for the automotive industry’s growing prowess, as well as to show off the New York water system’s engineering marvels, including aeration fountains, statuesque architecture, and the reservoir’s scenic beauty, reflecting the surrounding Catskills and dramatic Upstate skies.
More recently, before the rebuild, there were several pointed battles between local law authority officials and City DEP enforcement officers regarding ticketing of drivers along Route 28A.
In addition to its road and bridge building activities of recent years — which had many in Olive wondering whether too much was being done for too little effect, excepting their inconvenience — a new public access area has been put in at Monument Road, the old “lemon squeeze” entrance, with parking, trails, and one of those pedestrian crosswalks, which many are now enjoying, alongside the speedy and elegant new roadway.
That’s excepting those who will always miss the “lemon squeeze” and its own increasingly-distant charms. No matter how dangerous it was when two cars passed each other in its narrow confines.