Also bring sympathy but no fast solution to Manitou Station Road flood problem
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
To enhance safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, members of the Putnam County Legislature on Monday night (July 22) promised efforts to reduce the speed limit on Route 9D just north of Cold Spring and got an update on plans to reroute the trolley to reach hiking paths.
County leaders also expressed concern both about flooding along Manitou Station Road and the expense – estimated at $1.1 million – of remedying it.
The developments occurred during a Physical Services Committee meeting attended not only by the three legislators who form that panel but by five other members of the nine-person Putnam County Legislature, as well as by County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Highway Commissioner Fred Pena, and key personnel.
Route 9D speed and trolley access
On the question of the Route 9D speed limit, the legislators heard from John Teagle, the caretaker at Little Stony Point, and Paul Elconin, of the Open Space Institute, vice president of the Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks, as well as from Nelsonville resident Vincent Tamagna, county transportation manager. All have also been involved in the proposed Hudson River Fjord Trail for pedestrians and cyclists between Cold Spring and Beacon.
Because 9D is a state highway, running through Putnam and Dutchess Counties, neither county can reduce the speed limit directly.
“The Little Stony Point Citizens Association has been trying for years to get the speed limit reduced” near Little Stony Point and Breakneck Ridge, Teagle said. He gave legislators a map showing 25 miles of 9D between the Bear Mountain Bridge and the terminus near Wappingers Falls. Of the entire length, only a 3-mile section has a 55-miles-per-hour speed – and those three miles start a half-mile from Cold Spring and coincide with the busy area where hikers reach trails, he said. “That’s the crazy part.”
The narrow road twists around curves, with little or no shoulder or grass verge for pedestrians. “You have hikers who have no place to go” but along the road, Teagle told the committee. “You have bikers. You have cars. You have tractor-trailers” and motorcycles, “and they’re all sharing the same roadway.”
Although crosswalks for pedestrians might seem to help, until the speed limit is reduced, “we won’t ask for a crosswalk because people will get killed in the crosswalk,” thinking it safe, only to be hit by a speeding vehicle, Teagle explained. “We’re looking to get all this [stretch] at 30 miles per hour.”
As Teagle’s map indicated, 9D’s speed limit is a hodge-podge: 30 miles per hour in Cold Spring, 40 miles per hour south of Cold Spring to the Bear Mountain Bridge and for a short stretch just north of Cold Spring, 35 miles per hour approaching Beacon and lower than that within it, 45 miles per hour at one stage between Cold Spring and Beacon – and 55 miles per hour at the hiking trail access points. The hiking area also lacks adequate parking, with vehicles crammed into small, makeshift sites by Little Stony Point and Breakneck.
“It really is an accident waiting to happen,” Elconin said. He referred to various Fjord Trail activities underway to improve the situation, including pursuit of grant money to create better parking and start upgrading trails.
District 1 Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents Philipstown, lent her voice to the pleas. “I’m asking for that support also,” she informed Pena and her legislative colleagues.
“Traffic here is tremendous,” Pena agreed, focusing on the hiker-laden stretch and sounding a bit incredulous that “the speed limit is still 55 miles per hour here.” He pledged to bring the matter to the county’s traffic safety committee and to advocate that New York State reduce the speed limit. “I think it’s a reasonable request,” Pena said.
District 3 Legislator Richard Othmer, a Physical Services Committee member and the chairman of the full Legislature, said that he and others “absolutely” would support a formal resolution asking the state to reduce the speed limit. “The faster, the better, you get it in” the hopper for legislative attention, he told proponents of the change.
Tamagna kicked off the discussion by playing a video, made by Cold Spring residents involved in the Fjord Trail, which shows chaotic conditions at Little Stony Point on a summer day, with cars whizzing past at high speeds, pedestrians literally dodging vehicles to cross 9D to reach a trail, and drivers maneuvering erratically.
He and the others in the informal trolley-trail delegation said safety also could be enhanced by revising the route of the trolley, so it can bring pedestrians from the Cold Spring train station and elsewhere to the trails. Currently, because of various regulations, the trolley cannot do that.
“We talk a lot about the Fjord Trail and this is only going to be heavier traffic” if the trail is created, he said. Tamagna has been drafting a trolley rerouting and soon expects to take town supervisors and other municipal officials on a ride to help finalize the route. After that, he advised the committee, he would seek legislative approval of the trolley changes.
Elconin added that rerouting the trolley would minimize reliance on cars to reach trails or the need to walk along the road, while also supporting businesses and the economy in Cold Spring.
An online petition launched by Cold Spring resident Dar Williams asks Tamagna to champion the change. “The extended trolley route would be a great benefit to the village, town and pedestrians who enjoy our state parks and tourist destinations along the Hudson River,” it says.
Manitou Station Road
Before adjourning, the committee also briefly turned to the issue of flooding along Manitou Station Road.
According to a summary provided by Odell’s office, Manitou Station Road, “a small neighborhood along the Hudson River in Garrison, frequently is stranded due to tidal surges of the river. The single road that accesses the neighborhood has over the decades settled, making it susceptible to flooding. The original culvert has also been pressed into the soil and lost its ability to equalize the marsh on either side of the road.” The summary states that the anticipated remedy “is to provide a new culvert or culverts and raise the road, including possible sheeting, to protect against rising waters.”
“The road is sinking. The water table is up. People there get flooded out there all the time,” Scuccimarra informed the other legislators, noting that the county owns some of the land.
The committee, Pena, and Odell appeared sympathetic, if bereft of an immediate solution.
“It’s a cost of about $1 million” to fix the problem, said Odell, who observed that the area contains about 10 homes. “Clearly, we don’t have the resources right now. We just have to find the resources.” She sent a copy of the summary to Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea and Philipstown Highway Superintendent Roger Chirico.