West is east

detour-HZTMotorists in the town of Woodstock are hitting a roadblock. Route 212, the main highway that connects Saugerties with Woodstock and then normally continues through Mt. Tremper and either out to Route 28 or on to Phoenicia, is blocked off shortly before it reaches Mt. Tremper, and will remain impassable through the fall. Warning and advisory signs are in abundance, but some appear downright confusing. Moreover, many wonder why such a major thoroughfare had to be obstructed for so long, as opposed to half the road at a time being fixed, with a flag-person guiding traffic.

Here are some answers. The bridge replacement over the Beaver Kill creek near Mt. Tremper is part of a $27,000,000 contract to overhaul six bridges in Ulster county, a highway improvement initiative approved by the governor. The old bridge, near Tiso’s, had reached the end of its useful life, and was susceptible to damage from flooding. The new one will be longer and higher.

The project was originally slated to begin the last week of June, but its start was postponed until August because of material shortages and utility configurations. According to New York State highway department public relations officer Gina Disarro, not all bridges can be replaced one lane at a time (which would allow a remaining lane for traffic to pass.) This Beaver Kill bridge needed to be replaced as a whole; and even if the other method could have been applied, it would have caused construction to take twice as long and been far more expensive.


But it’s the signage that is causing the bulk of the consternation. Consider: you are driving west along Route 212 from Woodstock toward Lake Hill, Willow and beyond to Mt. Tremper, and every couple of miles there’s a sign telling you that you’re on the detour route for 212 east. What? You’re heading west but you’re on the detour for 212 east? OK, you might figure, this must be leading to some side road that will take me through. But keep going past Willow and you reach a barricade and that’s the end of the story.  The “detour 212 East” signs merely lead to an impassable obstruction. So what could the signs possibly be trying to say?

“We understand how it can be confusing, and we’re looking into it, to see if there’s a way to clarify it,” says Ms. Disarro. She explained their original reasoning. “Say you’re coming from Phoenicia and want to take Route 212 East to Lake Hill or Willow or Woodstock. Well, at the turn for Route 212 you see ‘detour 212 East’ signs, and they lead you along Route 28, then along Route 375, then at Woodstock they guide you to turn left onto Route 212 west.  So, yes, you are now on Route 212 west, still following signs saying ‘detour 212 east.’ But by following them you get to Woodstock or Willow or wherever you originally were trying to go, had you been able to take Route 212 east at the outset.”

Oh. There’s some logic to it… we think. And the same goes in the opposite direction, where, if you’re traveling from Willow east toward town, the signs say “detour 212 west…” Because East is west, too. These detour signs tell you to go all the way through town and take Route 375 to Route 28 west and out to Mt. Tremper and beyond. However, local residents know that you can fully cut that distance in half by turning on to Wittenberg Road at Bearsville, which will bring you back to Route 212 past the closed bridge.

But why is there a “detour 212 east” pointing toward Saugerties at the junction of Routes 375 and 212? Far as we can see, there’s no obstruction to going straight through.

That all said, DOT says it is likely to change the signs soon, possibly even before this article even appears.

The whole psychodrama is expected to end on or around November 15, when Route 212 re-opens.