CLAYTON — Tree removal and one-way traffic in downtown were met with confusion, and sometimes frustration, from some residents and visitors this week as workers prepared to reconstruct the roads in the village’s historic district.
Did you expect the DOT to cut down as many trees as they have in Clayton?
But state and local officials have offered more details about the construction, and assured that the village’s natural beauty will continue, if not blossom, when construction concludes and overhead cables are replaced with ones underground.
“There are going to be days when people will be inconvenienced, but we’ve gotta keep our eyes on the prize,” said Mayor Norma J. Zimmer.
One-way traffic patterns for portions of Riverside Drive, James and Webb streets commenced this week so workers from contractor Luck Bros. Inc., Plattsburgh, can rebuild them over the next two years for the state Department of Transportation. “Do not enter” and other signs highlighting the roadwork have been placed to help direct traffic. Workers also have begun cutting down trees along James and Web streets.
Michael R. Flick, a DOT regional spokesman, wrote in an email that workers will remove 50 trees within the highway boundary of the construction footprint, including Riverside Drive, and plant new ones at the end of the two-year project. Planting new trees at the end ensures that no damage befalls them during construction.
Excavation work can damage existing trees, including ones with roots that have dug into sewer lines, and some may have declined in health over the years or been clipped for interfering with overhead utilities. Mr. Flick wrote that the optimal course of action for construction in any municipality is typically to cut trees down and replace them.
“This allows for a new planting pit and for trees to be planted that are going to thrive,” he wrote. “Now, that being said ... we don’t go out of our way to cut trees on a project that aren’t being impacted.”
A poster hanging in the village office depicts what James and Webb streets and Riverside Drive will look like post-construction, and it includes pictures of new Accolade Elm, Flame Amur Maple, Prairie Pride Hackberry and other trees to be planted. It also showcases new benches, concrete sidewalk pavers, bicycle wracks and crosswalk markings to be included in the project.
Motorists will not be able to access Riverside Drive from Webb Street, turn left onto Riverside Drive from Merrick Street, or turn left onto James Street from Riverside Drive, according to a traffic map from the state Department of Transportation. They can only drive north on James Street toward Riverside Drive starting at the intersection with Mary Street.
Parking spots adjacent to where work occurs on any given day will be restricted, Mr. Flick wrote, but motorists can still park in spots located on both sides of one-way roads so long as vehicles face the direction of travel.
“I think it’s a really good learning process for everyone to get used to the one-way driving pattern,” Mrs. Zimmer said.
Despite the department’s and village’s efforts to inform residents, business owners and visitors about the one-way traffic patterns and construction activities, some were unaware of various details, or remained angry in spite of prior warnings.
Gary Tubolino, a seasonal Clayton resident, said while he knew workers would eventually rebuild the roads, he was caught off guard when he witnessed one-way traffic controls and tree removal this week. He said the dissemination of information was “terrible,” and he learned little from the restaurants he patronizes of various reports. Despite the shock, he said he understood the importance of the work because his son rebuilds and paves roads.
Several customers at the Lyric Coffee House, 246 James St., inquired and complained about the new traffic controls and tree removal, said owner Katalin I. “Kathy” Danielson Friday. Some motorists drove the wrong way despite the traffic signs, and others were unaware of the few parking limitations in place.
“I thought they were going to leave these trees and put in trees where there weren’t any,” Ms. Danielson said.
Riverside Media provides construction work updates via the village website and the free program Savvy Citizen, which can supply notifications through email and a smartphone app.
Shawn Di Prinzio, co-owner of Di Prinzio’s Kitchen and Di Prinzio’s Market on Riverside Drive, said the Thousand Islands-Clayton Chamber of Commerce has sent her emails about the construction, and she applauded the organization for it. No customers at her eatery and market have expressed complaints or concerns, she said.
“They’re really trying to keep us in the loop about what’s going on,” she said.
Workers will rebuild much of Riverside Drive, a section of James Street between Riverside Drive and Mary Street, and the section of Webb Street between Riverside Drive and Hugunin Street. The department predicts that construction will last through two winters, pending weather conditions, and throughout the summer of 2020 until concluding in spring 2021.
The village will foot the bill for workers to install conduits and vaults beneath the streets so National Grid, Verizon, Spectrum and Westelcom could install underground cables and remove the ones overhead. Payments will also cover ornamental lighting, a new water main on James Street and sewer laterals on portions of James Street and Riverside Drive.
Despite the initial commotion, people like Ms. Danielson and Mrs. Di Prinzio said they believe the project will enhance the village’s beauty and, because of that, help bolster the local economy.
“I’m for roads obviously, and we need it. These roads are getting feeble. We need to do it, and sometimes we have to get inconvenienced,” Mr. Tubolino said. “Also, it’ll make Clayton ... bring it up a notch.”