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County asks Transportation Council to study repurposing Parkway

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Reducing expressway to 2 lanes may ensure better maintenance

File photos by Tom Rivers – The Lake Ontario State Parkway runs along the lakeshore from Carlton into Rochester.

ALBION – Orleans County officials, increasing worried about the deteriorating conditions on the Lake Ontario State Parkway, think a long-term answer to the route’s maintenance may be reducing some of the lanes.

The expressway currently has two westbound and eastbound lanes. The road is bumpy in spots with cracks and pockmarks, especially just across the Orleans County line in Hamlin. The off-ramps are in bad shape and the state also seems to be reducing roadside mowing, county officials said.

“They are not maintaining the roadway or mowing much,” Jim Bensley, director of the Orleans County Planning Department, told the County Planning Board last Thursday.

He advised the board the county has applied to the Genesee Transportation Council for a feasibility study to reduce lanes of the Parkway, which extends 12.7 miles into Orleans County, ending near the Lakeside Beach State Park. The Parkway includes bridges that go over the Oak Orchard River.

The bridges over Oak Orchard River were built for the Lake Ontario State Parkway, which ends abruptly 2 miles west of the river.

The county is seeking $55,000 from the Transportation Council for the study, with the county providing an additional $9,000 in in-kind services.

The county would only support repurposing or decommissioning the west- or east-bound lanes if that resulted in the state better maintaining the remaining lanes, according to the county application with the Transportation Council.

The state Department of Transportation and Genesee Transportation Council have been directed state and federal highway resources to higher-volume routes. That doesn’t well for the continued maintenance of the Parkway, Bensley told the Planning Board.

One Planning Board member, Andrew Kludt of Kendall, said the Parkway has become so jarring that ambulance drivers don’t want to take patients on it. They look for alternative routes which take longer to get to the hospital.

“The Parkway is a huge time-saver if it’s operational,” Kludt said.

If the west- or eastbound lanes were closed to traffic, the closed lanes could perhaps be opened as a recreational route for walkers or snowmobilers, according to the county application. The remaining west- or eastbound lanes would stay open to traffic with steady maintenance from the state.

If the Transportation Council approves the study there will be public meetings and opportunities for residents and businesses to provide input about the Parkway and its future.

The study will take an inventory of the transportation assets on the Parkway and project the remaining useful life of the bridges, pavement, etc., and an anticipated maintenance schedule.

The study will also look at the most feasible route for repurposing the Parkway.

The study should weigh the conversion costs of a repurposed Parkway with its ongoing maintenance. Bensley said it’s possible a study could show it will cost too much to close lanes on the Parkway when conversion costs are tallied.

The project would be unprecedented, certainly for Orleans County, because it seeks to downsize a limited access state roadway. The route isn’t available to commercial traffic.

The goal of the study is a continuous highway corridor on the parkway from the Orleans-Monroe County border to Lakeside Beach State Park, Bensley said.