PLATTSBURGH — It took four decades of complaining to get a connector road on the Cumberland Head peninsula.Now it looks like it could take a lot more complaining to make everyone happy with the new highway.The connector road — officially named the Commodore Thomas Macdonough Highway — opened in December 2005. The new road has pleased many people but has confused others.
The biggest complaint people have, said Matt Rabideau, the manager of Cumberland Bay Market, is with the layout where Cumberland Head Road meets the new highway. That setup involves a one-way street at the end of the west side of Cumberland Head Road, the perimeter road that people used to use to get to the Lake Champlain Transportation ferry dock at the head's tip.Rabideau said he would put the approval rating for Macdonough Highway at 50 percent."I liked it the way it was before," he said in between operating a meat slicer, making deals on beer and chatting with customers, who all knew him by his first name.It's a view that others share, at least to some extent — a petition to remove the one-way road sits on the front counter of the store, more than 400 signatures strong, Rabideau said.
But a lot of people are quite happy with the new road, particularly those living on Cumberland Head Road.Bob Decker, who has lived on the bay side of the outer road since 1992, said traffic has eased considerably."In general "¦ it's a lot less busy," he said.It's something that makes him feel a little better about living on the road with his 4-year-old son, but he said the road is "still dangerous."There were numerous people walking and biking on the perimeter road on a recent Sunday afternoon. That's something Mike Spear, who lives in a neighborhood just off of the east side of Cumberland Head Road, said people couldn't do before the new road was opened."It's a lot safer," Spear said. "You can actually bike on the road."But even Spear, who feels the road is safer for everyone, especially his daughter Madison, started to make a big deal about the one-way. But, in the end, he admits, "It's not that bad."It's a response that Clinton County Legislator Sara Rowden, whose district includes Cumberland Head, would expect.Rowden laughed at the idea of a 50-percent approval for the road, saying she would put the new road's approval rating among people living on the peninsula at 95 percent.The market is a place where people go to complain, she said, which is why Rabideau would feel the way he does about the public opinion. She said she hadn't seen the petition that is at the store but was aware of it.
PLANNED OUT"As the petition is presented to the county, the county will look at the safety issues that it presents," Rowden said.But she didn't expect any changes would be made."The one-way onto the Head was put there after a public hearing," she said.The initial plans did not include a road there at all — people trying to enter the bay side of the perimeter road would have had to drive up to the intersection, as those exiting the road need to.Rowden said that a two-way road there would not work, as it would create a "sub-standard" and unnecessary intersection. Configuring the road to be two-way, she said, would "not be a simple task."I think people need to use the road the way it was designed and learn to accept it."
One question some have is whether the new road is that much faster than the perimeter road. A test by the Press-Republican found that it was faster.On April 30, a reporter drove all three routes to the ferry — the connector road and both sides of the perimeter road — traveling the speed limit, from the intersection where the Cumberland Head Road meets the new connector road to the ferry.Travel times were, approximately, six minutes for the east side of the perimeter road, five minutes on the west side and three and half minutes on the new road.The speed limit on the connector road is 10 miles per hour faster than the 35-mph limit on the perimeter road.