ITHACA, N.Y. — If you have opinions about the roads on Inlet Island, the city would like to hear from you.

On Wednesday the 12th, city public works staff and consulting engineers from C&S Companies will be hosting an open house at 4-6 PM at City Hall (108 E. Green Street), to discuss two design options for redoing 1,080 feet of the West State Street/Martin Luther King Jr. Street corridor from Floral Avenue to Taughannock Boulevard.  The proposed goals are to improve pedestrian conditions along the street, to improve options for pedestrians to cross the street, to enhance conditions for bicyclists, and to improve safety along the corridor.

The reasoning is fairly solid. Anyone traveling across Inlet Island knows how awkward the intersection of West State, West Seneca and Brindley is. Secondly, for anyone trying to get to West Hill by any mode of transportation that’s not four wheels, it can feel a bit like the arcade game Frogger, dodging cars if crossing between the crosswalks at either end, or at the mercy of drivers for whom a moment of distraction might result in them clipping or jumping the curb and onto the sidewalk.

Both options call for a mid-block crosswalk, a realignment of the six-legged intersection to make it less confusing, a reduction of West State/MLK Jr. Street from four lanes to three (turning lane with travel lanes on either side), and a traffic light at the intersection of Floral and West State. Where the alternatives differ is in how they treat the road shoulders. Alternative A calls for a 10′-12′ wide multi-use path along the south side of West State, protected from traffic by a concrete barrier (just like Cliff/West Buffalo Street), and a westbound bike lane on the north side of the street. Alternative B calls for a 10′ sidewalk on the south side, and a bike lane on both sides of the street. Alternative A would cost $817,000, and Alternative B would cost $714,000. An option to widen the bridge for bike lanes, paths and four lanes of traffic was considered, but eliminated due to cost.

Now, as anything that has to be coordinated between local and state government agencies, this has taken a long time to plan out; the city and its consultants have to do traffic studies, impacts on cultural and historic resources, and soil, air and water analyses, to name a few examples. The original scoping document rolled out in 2013, a steering meeting and public meeting were held in 2015 and 2016, and the city and state would like to select and finish up a final design by August for construction during the summer of 2018. That’s where this open house comes in; solicit one last round of feedback from the public, figure out which one the public prefers (or more cynically, which one angers fewer people), and move ahead with that plan.

Note for the really long-term planners, travel on Inlet Island is likely to be a bit unpleasant in 2018. Not only will this project be underway, but so will the new Brindley Street Bridge replacement, a span extending from Taughannock Boulevard to the Brindley/Taber Street intersection. When that gets going, you might want to stick to West Buffalo and West Seneca for a while. But on the bright side, when finished at least one block of the city will be missing Ithaca’s mascot, the mighty undelighty pothole. Before you go racing to the comments to gripe about potholes before pedestrians, the money’s separate. Road repairs are a mix of state and local dollars, infrastructure improvements are mostly state and federal funds.

On a related note, the City of Ithaca will be hosting an open house regarding planned 2018 roadway improvements along University Avenue from Linn Street to Lake Street. The open house, which will be held at City Hall from 4-6 PM on Tuesday the 11th, will give the public a chance to provide feedback on several preliminary design alternatives being considered. Given the current precarious state of driving down the hill with haphazardly parked cars on either side, and the propensity of drivers crashing into the cemetery wall, just about anything would be an improvement.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.