Ithaca, N.Y. — Unexpected delays have pushed back the projected completion date for the surface of the western stretch of the Commons into the spring.

Officials had hoped the 100 block of the Commons, which stretches from Center Ithaca to Cayuga Street, would be done in November. They no longer expect that to be possible.

The good news is that surface work on the 200 block of the Commons, which stretches from Center Ithaca to Aurora Street, and on Bank Alley will both be done in November.

But because crews do not think they will finish the 100 block in time for Nov. 21, that stretch of the Commons will retain its current work zone until the spring. Surface work is mostly impossible to do in the winter because of how concrete responds to bel0w-freezing temperatures.

Ithaca officials said in July that they’d hoped to get all the surface work done in time for the November deadline.

“I was hoping we could get it all done, but it does not appear that’s the case,” said Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

The Commons construction. (Jeff Stein/IthacaVoice)

The reason

Project Manager Michael Kuo said the problem stems from two main factors: 1) The duration of NYSEG’s work, and 2) The Simeon’s crash.

“We control our contractors,” which can work on water mains, sewer mains and other parts of the project, Kuo said. “But NYSEG has their own bureaucracy and their own process for getting work done.”

Kuo praised NYSEG for doing important, valuable work that will serve the downtown infrastructure for decades to come.

Still, he said NYSEG’s part of the project has taken much longer than anticipated — in large part because of the Simeon’s crash and also because of difficult street conditions. Those delays, in turn, have hampered the city’s efforts.

“Unfortunately, there’s two entities that control those things: we lined up what we needed to do to get done by Thanksgiving, but it was out of our control to slot in the gas,” Kuo said.

Ithaca’s contractors only regained control of a major part of the project from NYSEG on Sept. 8, Kuo said.

An evolving timeline

The renovation was originally scheduled to be completed on July 31. That date was then scrapped for a November deadline. Now, project managers say they expect it to take until mid-2015 to finish.

Ferguson acknowledged the concerns among businesses and said the city is working furiously to get it done.

“Like everybody else, we’d like to see this done,” Ferguson said. “It’s time to finish this and move on.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.