Press-Republican

Local News

September 24, 2013

Veteran's Memorial Highway needs work

WILMINGTON — With fall foliage colors emerging fast, the Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway is a busy road.

But officials here remain concerned about the highway’s condition.

Stretches of the paved roadway are pocked with holes, others riddled with warped asphalt that looks like a series of moguls — bumps that are welcome on ski trails but not so great for cars.

Town of Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston pointed to the trouble spots on a recent ride-along with the Press-Republican.

With nearly 70,000 paid trips each year, he says, the drive up Whiteface is a critical source of tourism revenue for the region, both in his town and in Essex County.

“If anything happened to close it, it would be economically devastating to the area,” Preston said. “We need to maintain this before we lose it.”

JURISDICTIONAL TANGLE

The road is owned by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which does not have a budget for road repairs. 

The State Department of Transportation did engineering studies of the road two years ago, coming up with a repair cost of almost $5 million.

The Olympic Regional Development Authority manages the highway tolls and runs the restaurant and gift shop in the Castle at the top of the mountain.

“But ORDA was never meant to be in the highway business,” Preston said, explaining the jurisdictional Catch-22 that chases funding for Memorial Highway repairs in circles.

ORDA does not have the budget for roadwork, he said. 

‘SAFETY ISSUES

Several years ago, Wilmington town planners applied for federal transportation funds to restore the site but were turned down.

The Memorial Highway was listed on National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 10, 2008, but it is owned by New York state.

“The state owns this road, and the state needs to do something about it,” Preston said.

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