Plans for overpass construction are making at least one business here uneasy.

The New York State Department of Transportation has proposed two prospective projects to replace the Route 11 bridge over Interstate 87 and reconstruct the on and off ramps to the highway.

The plans are per requirements that Interstate overpasses have a vertical clearance of 16 feet. The bridge is currently at 14 feet.

But those plans may hinder some local business, especially the PA (Public America) convenience store, which recently completed a $1 million renovation that added a Dunkin' Donuts and Papa Johns.

Five alternatives were offered by DOT, but only two are considered feasible.

WIDEN THE ROAD

Alternative No. 4 will replace the bridge overpass and widen Route 11. This project would make the bridge three lanes wide and include a two-course overlay and spot reconstruction of the ramps.

Due to zoning regulations, no business can be located within 30 meters of such an intersection, which "would most likely require the acquisition of the business (PA)," according to the Draft Design Report by the Region 7 Design Group out of Watertown,

The convenience store opened in August 2009 and is located on Route 11, just off Exit 42. The business held its grand opening Oct. 9 for the newly renovated eateries.

ROUNDABOUTS

Alternative No. 5 is the preferred option, which includes the mandatory bridge work but also includes two roundabouts to replace the on and off ramps.

In this alternative, the acquisition of the PA would not be necessary; however, a right-of-way would be acquired from that and other adjacent properties.

'UPSETTING'

PA Manager Mike Hayes doesn't like either option.

"The roundabouts are not going to work," he said.

He said three to six wind turbines on trucks come through that way on a daily basis and will not be able to make the turns.

And in Alternative No. 4, the business, which employs 45 people, would have to move or close.

"Where else are we going to find a spot like this—" Hayes said.

Customers would also no longer be able to make a left turn out of the business, which will decrease the flow of business.

"We voiced our complaint at the (Sept. 23) meeting," Hayes said. "We just finished (renovations) in September, and now we hear this. It's upsetting."

TRAFFIC FLOW

Michael Flick, DOT public information officer, said they're aware of the affect the construction will have on local businesses, especially the concerns of PA, but said roundabouts are the appropriate way to go.

"They do move traffic more efficiently — less stop and starts and allows for a freer flow of traffic.

"We'll work with them to try to come up with a reasonable solution," he said of PA.

"Right now, he's got pretty free access in and out of the property. We will try to provide a more safe ingress and egress. It provides better traffic control for us.

"There is reason behind not letting a business have 150 feet of curb cut."

He said the bridge was built 50 years ago, and the standards have changed, especially since there have been recorded instances of trucks hitting the overpass when traveling.

"This bridge has come to the end of its service life," Flick said.

Hayes wonders why there are no other options to solve the issue.

"Everybody's wondering what's going on. Why can't we be grandfathered in—" he asked, regarding the bridge-height regulations. "It seems fishy. Why can't they dig the road lower (under the bridge)—"

2012 JOB

The project's contract letting will begin in spring 2012, and construction is planned to start that summer and be completed by fall 2013.

The estimated construction cost is $24 million.

According to the draft report, a final decision on the design will be based on pending "environmental determination, evaluation of the comments on the draft design approval document and comments received from the public meeting."

E-mail Michelle Besaw at: mbesaw@pressrepublican.com

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