November 20, 2013

State to bankroll Whiteface Highway repair


---- — LAKE PLACID — Funding is in place to restore and rehabilitate the Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway.

In Lake Placid on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced a $35 million allocation over five years for a partnership between Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake and Clarkson University in Potsdam, delivering two economic development boosts in one visit.

The $12 million for Whiteface, which will also pay for repairs to the Castle at the summit, will come from New York Works funding.

The crowd at the ORDA Conference Center greet the governor's announcement of Memorial Highway money with a standing ovation.

Regional tourism officials had been urging state leaders to attend to Memorial Highway repairs for several years. The road is owned by the State Department of Environmental Conservation and managed as a tourism destination by the Olympic Regional Development Authority but considered a state road by the Department of Transportation.

The three-tiered governance of the property has shifted funding responsibilities for decades. The last major upgrade was done more than 50 years ago.


Engineering surveys by DOT estimated repairs to the roadway alone could run upwards of $6 million, not including restoration and renovations at the Castle and elevator on top.

The allocation for Memorial Highway repairs comes about three months after the North Country Regional Economic Development Council named the historic roadway, including the mountaintop Castle and elevator to the summit, a priority project for funding.

The 8-mile winding roadway up Whiteface Mountain was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 10, 2008, the top 5 miles of which are a toll road drawing thousands of visitors in the summer and autumn months.

It was designed in the late 1920s as an access road for veterans and disabled persons who might like to achieve travel to a mountain summit.

Construction began in 1931 and was completed with a dedication by Franklin D. Roosevelt in September 1935.

The infrastructure on the mountain includes an elevator built deep into the rock face. A ramp provides access for people with physical disabilities to the elevator, which brings visitors to a summit house with views of the Adirondack mountains and the Green Mountains to the east.

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