ITHACA, N.Y. — The stretch of West Spencer Street between Stone Quarry and the Elmira Road traffic circle is riddled with potholes, and residents have let the City of Ithaca know it. In the first six months of 2019, the street was the subject of more formal pothole requests than any other in the city, and the neighborhood’s e-mail list has regularly featured comments on the subject directed to city representatives and employees.
In light of complaints, the city has added the 300 block of West Spencer Street to the summer paving schedule, along with planned work on the 200 block. Spencer will be milled and paved from Stone Quarry to Cayuga, with work scheduled to begin at the end of this week and to conclude by Aug. 30.
The work will proceed in stages to minimize traffic impacts, though drivers should expect some delays. Each block will remain open during milling, with traffic flaggers on-site to maintain safety. Immediately after milling is complete, the 200 block will be briefly closed for repaving.
Paving will not begin on the 300 block until South Aurora Street reopens to accommodate detoured traffic (it has been closed for sidewalk construction since June). The city expects a start date of about Aug. 15 for paving the 300 block, according to a notice issued by the Streets and Facilities Department. In the interim, traffic will be allowed on the milled surface.
While the work may make for a temporarily rough ride, complaints submitted to the city’s pothole request portal (obtained by The Ithaca Voice via a Freedom of Information Law Request) suggest that’s nothing new for this stretch of road.
“Numerous potholes on Spencer Street, at least 20, probably more. Some deep at one end of road. Surprised to see so many potholes on such a well-traveled street by many cars. It feels like a New York State Park Road very bumpy instead of a normal Road. The deepest holes maybe as much as 6 inches deep,” one person wrote in a complaint submitted last February.
“Flat tire on one of many potholes on street down from stone quarry. Now getting tire fixed at store. No way to not miss,” read another comment submitted in February, and, “There is an almost continuous rut of potholes on the western lane of the road (northbound travel lane). Cars are moving to travel on the other side of the road, which is causing issues with oncoming traffic,” read one from April.
The 300 block of Spencer was not initially included in work plans for the summer, according to city chief of staff Dan Cogan, because NYSEG expects to replace gas lines under the surface within the next couple of years. Rather than having NYSEG tear up pristine asphalt, the city planned to hold off on repairs until after the utility work was finished.
Residents’ consistent complaints, however, forced a change of heart. Given that work was already planned for the 200 block, Cogan said it made sense to move forward with milling and paving the 300 block at the same time. He said the project will also offer an opportunity for crews to address drainage issues and, possibly, to add a speed control device to slow cars coming down from Stone Quarry Road.
When NYSEG replaces the gas lines under Spencer they’ll be responsible for restoring the street surface to the condition they find it in. In the meantime, drivers and cyclists can look forward to a smoother ride.
Featured image: The 300 block of West Spencer Street. (Devon Magliozzi/Ithaca Voice)