Letters: On Paving South Mountain Pass

Residents weigh in on town’s June 10 vote

To the Honorable Richard Shea and Other Town Board Members:

Having been in Kentucky when the meeting occurred, I missed a chance to speak about paving South Mountain Pass. Our family (now numbering 17, counting grandchildren) have lived on the Pass since 1968, when we built a house here, on what’s called Putnam Ridge. In the early years we joined others living on the Pass to petition the town against paving.

We liked the bucolic feel of a dirt road and believed that dirt would deter drivers seeking passage between 9 and 9D from using the Pass. Over time, and with the experience of increasing rains of sudden magnitude, which are attributed by science to climate changes that show no sign of stopping for, at best, generations, we have come to the firm conclusion that the Pass should be paved.

Over the past three years there have been numerous times when access to our (paved) driveway, situated in the middle of the Pass, has been impossible from east or west due to severe washouts. On other occasions we have been able to achieve passage only at the cost of a muffler. Between bouts of heavy rain, the Pass experiences droughts, creating dust (the dirt in dried form), which coats the cars and blows away — a tiny dust bowl.

The time has come to pave the Pass. We urge that the paving cover the entire Pass because, as an aesthetic matter it would be more appealing, and as a matter of expense, dirt repairs will still be necessary on unpaved portions, and that with increasing frequency and expense. As a matter of expense, the cost of maintenance of the Pass must far exceed the amortized cost of paving. I am guessing at this but, as the frequency of repairs accelerates, with no end in sight (see, e.g., dismal prospects for Paris Conference in November), it seems penny-wise and pound–very, very foolish to persist in the false romanticism of dirt.

One final note of history. In the late ’60s, with leadership from Frank Dushin, Jim Thatcher and others living on the Pass, we submitted to Central Hudson a plan for transmission lines dramatically different from the one they were about to implement. Theirs would have clear-cut on both sides of the Pass about 30 feet deep, with proposed poles of T-shape design. Our design had no clear-cutting, with poles using the L-shape zigzagging from side to side so as to minimize dramatically the necessary cutting. Somehow, the residents prevailed. The results of this action can be seen by the close observer today. This action and not the preservation of dirt is what makes the Pass a bucolic wonder to be proud of.

Thank you for considering these thoughts.

Bevis and Clara Longstreth and family

To All:

As a resident of South Mountain Pass I am writing ask that you vote against the paving on our road.

I oppose the paving for many reasons. Paving will lead to more and faster traffic on our road, as people will see it as an easy pass-through from Routes 9D to 9. Our road is too narrow for the many cars speeding through. This will become a dangerous situation, not only for those of using this road for walking, bicycling, horseback riding, but for drivers as well.

There are better engineering traffic solutions than paving our road. Proper drainage can be done thoughtfully and successfully without paving.

Paving is not the solution. Please vote NO.

Please note: It would be appreciated if residents on our road could be notified in advance when the Route 9D entrance/exit will be unaccessible. In order to use the Route 9 entrance/exit, an additional 10 miles is added to each trip leaving our home!

Melissa Ptacek

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a resident of Garrison and am writing about the town’s plans to pave portions of South Mountain Pass. My family and I moved here two years ago, and one of the most important factors in our choosing our new home was finding a quiet and safe street to live on. We have two young children, ages 4 years and 8 weeks. South Mountain Pass is a perfect fit for our family — it is a quiet, safe street, surrounded by nature and a wonderful community.

We have recently learned that the town is taking steps to install drainage in the road that will work best with a paved road and that they are voting on this drainage, which will lead to future paving in the very near future. We fully support drainage appropriate and proven to work on dirt roads as they use in states such as Vermont. Many residents of South Mountain Pass are willing to pay to test out a drainage technique proven to work in other areas with dirt roads similar to ours at no cost to the town as an alternative to paving.

Paving our road will have a negative and dangerous impact to those who live and travel on and use our road for recreation. As our road is a pass-through between 9 and 9D and as it is very close to the goat trail, it will increase the traffic on our road, the traffic will also be much quicker, and as the road in most places can only safely accommodate one car, and there are a lot of blind turns on our road. There will be more accidents if the road is paved even partially. As our road is used by cars, residents walking with their families/strollers/pets, hikers from Manitou Station, the horse club on our street, and the Appalachian Trail, paving our road causes a great risk to all those listed above.

It will also be even more dangerous when the goat trail is closed for work as we currently see a dramatic increase in dangerous drivers on our street during this time (higher speeds, not slowing for blind turns, etc.). Paving will further encourage such behavior, even if it’s only a portion of the street. Our road will also likely gain greater dangerous traffic during rush hour if the goat trail traffic is too slow.

From my attending meetings held by the Town Board, questions have also been raised around the true cost of paving, whether SEQRA regulations have been fully followed, should a traffic study be conducted, whether the approved drainage grates are placed correctly, and that the change order for the project is costing 200 percent of the original budget.

My family and I are extremely concerned about this. We love the location of our house and chose not to live on busy streets such as 9 or 9D due to not wanting to raise our kids around fast-moving cars.

  • We ask the board: STOP the work being done on South Mountain Pass.
  • We ask the board: DO NOT VOTE to increase the budget on the drainage project.
  • We ask the board: DO NOT APPROVE the entire paving project.

We are also asking our representative Legislator Barbara J. Scuccimarra to help us with our efforts. We are asking that she please join us at this Wednesday’s meeting at Philipstown Town Hall, June 10, at 7:30 p.m. sharp, since this issue is the first thing on the agenda.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my concerns regarding the safety of my children and others who use our street. I hope that you will support us.

Christine Schaetzl

To the Philipstown Board:

I oppose the paving and drainage work being done on South Mountain Pass because paving will lead to: more traffic, faster traffic, and the above issues would be multiplied due to the fact that South Mountain Pass is a cut-through between Routes 9D and 9. Whenever there is an issue on Route 6/202 or NY-403 we see a huge increase in traffic.

I, my neighbors, and many people from elsewhere use South Mountain Pass for these activities: walking with our children and pets; hiking — the Appalachian Trail crosses our road very close to the proposed paving and nature tourists get off of Metro-North at the Manitou Station to hike up the hill to the trail; jogging/running; bicycling with our children; and horseback riding — we have a pony club of many young riders on our road, who participate in Peekskill and Cold Spring parades, and other riders come in off of trails from the north and south to enjoy our dirt road.

We believe this paving project will make our road more dangerous. We see this paving project as a threat to our lives, our children’s lives, and our pet’s lives. We see this paving project as an assault on our quality of life and our way of life. Our very narrow mountain pass is a long series of blind curves; the increased traffic and speed that comes with paving will only lead to more accidents.

We continue to ask that we as a town try other proven dirt-road drainage engineering techniques. We have been told that what we are asking for has already been tried by the town, yet we have seen no proof to support this claim. Why is it that we hear other municipalities and towns across our nation use these techniques and find dirt roads to be less expensive than paved roads, while we are continually told that our dirt roads are more expensive? Many neighbors have expressed concerns about the numbers being used by the town to come to these conclusions and defend these arguments. Can the numbers be verified?

We have been asking our neighbors how they feel and are finding that our opposition to the paving project is the overwhelming majority position. Many of us have been here for decades. All of us moved here because of the fact that we wanted to live on a dirt road.

We feel as though the town board has not been up-front and straightforward about the scope and goal of the project from the beginning. Every time we voice our opposition to this project, the project seems to grow and those responsible for it seem to push it harder and faster toward completion. Why is this project being forced upon a road where the majority of the residents do not want it?

  • We ask the board: STOP the work being done on South Mountain Pass.
  • We ask the board: DO NOT VOTE to increase the budget on the drainage project.
  • We ask the board: DO NOT APPROVE the entire paving project.

When something is defined as a change order we would expect it to be a small change. The change order that is about to be voted on is approximately 200 percent of the original project. We still do not know how much the paving is going to cost. Is it true the town must put the money up for the project first, and will get reimbursed later?

Do SEQRA regulations factor into this project? If not, why not? When does a project grow large enough to require SEQRA?

We question the quality of the work that has been done thus far on the drainage for the paving project. Drainage grates look like they are placed incorrectly.

We are ready to pay for a test of our proposed engineering techniques ourselves. We want to work with the town to solve the concerns at hand. We do not understand why the paving project cannot be suspended while we conduct a test of other dirt-road drainage engineering techniques.

We feel that the above recreational uses of our road warrant additional cost. We enjoy our road recreationally the way that it is. Recreational areas and facilities are funded throughout our community; why are we the only ones under fiscal scrutiny?

Even if one disagrees with the above statement, why hasn’t our community been offered the opportunity to pay for the additional costs of maintaining our road ourselves before this unwanted paving project was started? I have heard many neighbors say they would not rule out such an option.

We know our road is historic, yet we continually hear certain board members suggest it is not. Why is this? Would acknowledgement that our road is historic require different handling of the project?

We are also calling out to our broader community, others who live on other dirt roads, and those who do not but support our cause. Our opposition to this paving project is gaining support beyond our little neighborhood.

We are also asking our representative Legislator Barbara J. Scuccimarra to help us with our efforts. We are asking that she please join us at this Wednesday’s meeting at Philipstown town hall, on June 10, at 7:30 p.m. sharp, since this issue is the first thing on the agenda.

Alex Clifton

To all members of the Philipstown Board

As residents and users of South Mountain Pass for 46 years, we are greatly concerned about the present drainage work being done on the road from Route 9D to Fern Hill Drive. We are further concerned about the proposal to increase that work to High Ridge Road (for a 25 percent approximate total of SMP).

We are concerned that alternate methods are not being considered — some of which are used in other states, Pennsylvania and Vermont being two — that are very cost effective and function well.

We fear this short paving project is just the beginning of a total road paving of SMP, and perhaps the rest of our wonderful dirt roads in Philipstown.

SMP, a “thru road” between Routes 9 and 9D, is narrow, curvy and hilly with many side roads and driveways coming into it, some at blind curves.

Traffic, which increases even now when other routes are closed, will become a popular shortcut. The residents, children, hikers, joggers, bicyclists and horseback riders that use SMP regularly will be put in great danger as will other motorists due to the increased speed that will result from paving.

We respectfully request that the Town Board put this project on hold and look into alternatives that would not only work on SMP but all our dirt roads.

Blair and Carol Hartley

To whom it may concern:

When my wife and I decided to move our family to Garrison two years ago, it was with the hopes that our daughters (now 4 years and 8 weeks old) would benefit from living on a quiet country road like South Mountain Pass. We are very disturbed by the current plans expressed by Supervisor Shea to transform a much-needed drainage project to address weather-related erosion of sections of our road into a paving project that would pave 25 percent of the road, extending well past the problem areas caused by weather erosion.

Whenever route 9D is closed south of Bear Mountain Bridge, the town must post “road closed” notifications and a police presence to control increased traffic on South Mountain Pass. I cannot know how Supervisor Shea believes that paving an extensive section of this narrow, winding road will not lead to increased traffic and safety concerns for residents of the Pass and our children. We do not have sidewalks or parks on South Mountain Pass to keep our children safe should the paved road be deemed unsafe for pedestrians.

I am also concerned about the lack of transparency in this paving decision. Given the controversy over paving local dirt roads in the past, I am troubled that decisions regarding paving the road were moving forward without inviting any comment from the residents who would be directly impacted by that decision.

I fully support investing in appropriate drainage for the road and would ask Supervisor Shea and the board to reconsider the offer made by residents of the Pass to pay ourselves for a drainage test using techniques that are proven effective in other areas of the country with similar rough terrain and lower-maintenance dirt roads.

For Mr. Shea this is a budgetary issue; for me it is an issue regarding the safety and welfare of my wife and children, and of the many families who also live on South Mountain Pass.

I ask the board: STOP the work being done on South Mountain Pass.

I ask the board: DO NOT VOTE to increase the budget on the drainage project.

I ask the board: DO NOT APPROVE the entire paving project.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Edward A’Zary

To All Responsible for Philipstown Community:

Nineteen years ago the town received a report from the Town Roads Advisory Committee. There was also a report from a Cornell roads expert. Both reports summarized that the maintenance of Philipstown’s dirt roads did not employ best management practices. Since then, there has been no improvement in the Highway Department care of our dirt roads.

In fact, in the past few years there has been an obvious overuse of Item 4 for surfacing, resulting in unnecessary waste and extraordinary expense. This mismanagement is then used as an excuse to demand paving. Across our country we see that correctly managed dirt/gravel roads are less expensive to maintain.

The Town Board has a responsibility to see that our taxes are efficiently used.

The Highway Department has a responsibility to put into practice the best management practices.

We citizens are responsible for investigation, education and expectation of improved performance by our elected officials.

Betsy Calhoun

6 thoughts on “Letters: On Paving South Mountain Pass

  1. My husband and I live in Putnam Valley and both work of us have occasion to drive over the unpaved sections of Albany Post Road on our way to work in Cold Spring and Garrison. This shortcut saves over four miles driving time from the alternative routes and there are many people besides us who use these roads going east to west. During the year, no matter what the season, there are times when even this small section is impassable because of the deep ruts and bumps that occur when there’s a heavy rain. During the winter snow and ice, it becomes virtually impossible due to the extremely hazardous conditions, even with an all-wheel drive vehicle.

    I find it incredible that a small group of elite fantasists have been able to hold hostage the majority group of taxpayers who are paying for these PUBLIC roads. I would also like to remind the very selfish individuals who insist that the rest of us have to pay millions so that they can live in their own private theme part, that this is still the USA and they are not legally entitled to receive a “gift” of public monies for their private benefit, no matter how they try to pretend that the unpaved and dangerous roads are somehow a benefit to the public.

    It’s about time that Shea and the Board listen to the highway super and pave these roads once and for all before there’s a tragedy and someone gets hurt or killed because emergency service vehicles couldn’t get through.

  2. I am opposed to paving South Mountain Pass. I feel that it is important not to pave the road. The traffic will drive much faster if the road is paved. Whenever Route 6 & 202 are closed a huge amount of traffic comes across South Mountain Pass. If the road were paved this traffic would increase and the cars would go much faster. Please vote to maintain South Mountain Pass as a dirt road.

  3. I took a ‘country boy’ ride with an old-time friend last week. We each looked out our window and he laughed and said, “I sure am glad it’s not my tax dollars.” I knew exactly what he meant. You see, driving down a dirt road and looking at a catch basin every 50 feet full of dirt is, in my eyes, a waste of tax dollars. You want dirt roads, pay a higher tax. You don’t like that, move. Why should I fund wasteful projects? Common sense here.

  4. Like Patty Villanova, I live in the rustic hills of Putnam Valley, on a road that was dirt when we moved in 28 years ago and is now paved. I also commuted for five years over the same Canopus Hill > Old Albany Post Rd.> Travis Hill > Snake Hill stretch that she uses, and have suffered car damage on the “washboard” surface that develops at the corner of Old Albany and Canopus Hill on a regular basis.

    It’s true that, even on our little cul-de-sac of a street, speeds increased after the paving, but the constant dust, mud puddles, and resulting car damage disappeared. We don’t have much of a yard, but we taught our children from day one that the street — paved or unpaved — is never a playground.

    I honestly don’t think you can reasonably invoke “quality of life” concerns when you are talking about PUBLIC thoroughfares that have to be used by emergency responders, postal workers, and regular folks who don’t have Range Rovers or even 4-wheel drive.

  5. FACT: The current road is often dangerous and at times impassable–including for emergency vehicles.
    SUPPOSITION: Paving 2 small portions of the road will invite increased traffic and fast drivers.

    Let’s go with the facts!

    My family has had a home on High Ridge Road since 1970. In those years, there have been frequent wash-outs on the portion of South Mountain Pass from Route 9D to High Ridge Road. At times, this portion of the Pass has been quite dangerous to drive on, and occasionally impassible. Ordinary amounts of rainfall routinely produce ruts, erosions on both sides of the road, and a washboard effect — all of which produce unsafe driving conditions.

    The repair crews have done an amazing job, but it clearly is a costly and Sisyphusian task to keep the road in good condition.

    Improved drainage and selective paving are the best solutions to move toward greater safety on this road and lower long-term maintenance costs.

    Everyone wants to preserve the rural aesthetic of the Pass. I think this clearly can be retained by limiting the extent of work on the road to the portion from 9D to High Ridge Road, and some additional portion close to Route 9.