An idea that’s been years in the making — building some sort of bicycle lanes along South Putt Corners Road for the sake of New Paltz High School students — will be coming to fruition this summer. Regular travelers may have already noticed the work that’s been done along the shoulders recently, but the full road-widening project will take most of the warm months to complete.
According to Tom Jackson, commissioner of public works for the County of Ulster, the reconstruction will be for the full length of the road, between state routes 299 and 32. The result will be a resurfaced road with new six-foot shoulders, which together with the existing ten-foot lanes will be 32 feet across.
Expanding the 1.7-mile length comes with a $3.9 million price tag, but Jackson said that it’s a “significant” project in the grand scheme of things as county roads go. “We’re looking forward to getting this done,” he added. Most of the money will be reimbursed through state and federal funding, as well.
The largest chunk — $3 million — will go to the construction itself, which includes plans to make turning improvements as well. A new right-turn lane will be built at Route 299, and one for turning left will be created southbound at the high school. This work will cause delays, but Jackson said that at least one lane would be open to traffic at all times. As for timing, the commissioner said the operation would begin “soon” and last into September, but that both start and completion days are dependent on the weather.
Of the remaining $900,000, it’s earmarked to purchase rights of way into which the road might be widened, designing the road and intersection improvements, and to pay for the rigorous inspection regimen required for most federally-funded projects. Jackson said that there would be an ongoing presence by a team of construction inspectors.
Bicycle lanes are part of a larger effort to improve safety along this road, which is well-traveled by students. There is also a push to get the speed limit lowered by ten miles per hour, to 35 mph. That’s a lengthy process; members of town and school boards have made a request to Jackson’s office, which is now being processed. The next step would be to contact state transportation officials with a request to study the issue. If their findings support the belief that the speed limit is unsafe, it might then be reduced.
There is a radar-enabled digital sign ready to be deployed near the school, displaying each vehicle’s speed in turn, but Jackson doesn’t want to roll it out just yet. “We’d rather do it for 35 than 45,” he said.