PLATTSBURGH — It's been talked about for decades, but the Cumberland Head connector road will finally become a reality.
Work on the $7.3 million road should begin any day now; county officials are just waiting to receive a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction.
"The people of Cumberland Head are very excited about this,'' said Clinton County Legislator Sara Rowden (D-Area 4, Town of Plattsburgh).
"They've waited a long time for this.''
Residents of Cumberland Head have long lobbied for a connector road to split the peninsula.
Their chief argument was the heavy truck traffic that circled the head on Route 314, also known as the perimeter road.
The perimeter road was seen as inadequate to handle the large volume of vehicles that departed the Lake Champlain Transportation Co. ferries that launch from and arrive at the tip of the head.
A number of serious accidents have occurred over the years, causing residents to push even harder for a connector road.
The idea came to fruition in 2002 when then State Sen. Ronald B. Stafford secured the bulk of the funding for the project.
After three years of further study, design and planning, the shovels are now ready.
Kubricky Construction Corp. of Glens Falls was awarded the job last month after outbidding two other companies.
County Highway Superintendent Albert Rascoe said crews should be out clearing trees and brush in the coming days.
Topsoil will then be stripped away to prepare for the laying of the actual roadway.
Construction should take more than a year, with the road opening in mid 2006, Rascoe said.
Work on the road should not disrupt traffic on the head since the path cuts through an undeveloped area.
Residents of Champlain Park are seeking access to the connector road in order to alleviate any traffic through their neighborhood caused by a proposed subdivision.
But legislators say no access roads will be attached to the connector road.
"We wanted this road for safety, and we're not going to have cars trying to pull in and out of the road,'' said Keith Defayette (D-Area 5, Schuyler Falls).
The connector road will link up with the parkway portion of 314 to the north of Cumberland Bay Market.
The entrance to the ferry landing will also be changed. The road will go straight onto Lighthouse Point Road and circle around to the ferry dock.
The ferry company is spending about $350,000 to add new ticket booths and make changes to the landing area. It also donated some land for the road itself.
"The ferry company has been very cooperative with this project,'' Rascoe said.
The connector road will be two lanes with a 45-mph speed limit. The county has secured enough land on either side of the road to expand it to four lanes if that ever becomes necessary.
The project will also feature a bicycle path the length of the road.
"This will not only take cars off the perimeter road, it will, hopefully, create a better environment for residents and provide better recreation opportunities,'' Rascoe said.
In addition to building the road, Rascoe said, the county must replace 14 acres of wetlands in the middle of the head.
The Town of Plattsburgh will take over maintenance of the perimeter road once the connector road is complete.