Hanshaw Road closing to westbound traffic beginning Monday for road reconstruction

April 19, 2014

A long stretch of Hanshaw Road in Ithaca's northeast, closed in one direction for much of last year, will close again this Monday morning to all westbound traffic for about three months. Tompkins County is continuing a major road widening and reconstruction project that extends from the intersection with Pleasant Grove Road near Community Corners to Sapsucker Woods Road.

Lane closures along Hanshaw Road last summer. One lane will remain open for eastbound traffic for the next three months. 14850 Photo.Lane closures along Hanshaw Road last summer. One lane will remain open for eastbound traffic for the next three months. 14850 Photo.The project began last spring after years of contentious debate over the plan to take a portion of each homeowner's property along the county-owned road, under eminent domain, in order to make room for five-foot-wide paved shoulders on each side, and a paved walkway on the north side of the road. A number of area residents still have lawn signs saying "We Want the Walk" or "Say No to Eminent Domain," the legal process by which a government entity may purchase private property at a price it deems a "fair market value," whether the property owner wants to sell or not.

Initiated in 1999, in the planning process since 2005, and originally slated to begin work in 2011, the project was actually delayed until the summer of 2013. Work last year included excavating along the edges of Hanshaw Road, relocating gas lines and utility poles, and drainage, and required westbound drivers (heading from Dryden or Warren Road towards Community Corners and the Village of Cayuga Heights) to seek another route. Eastbound drivers were able to proceed along Hanshaw Road.

Beginning this week, a similar detour will be in place, from Sapsucker Woods Road at the town line where the Town of Dryden and Town of Ithaca meet, to Warren Road for now, and all the way to Pleasant Grove Road just inside the Village of Cayuga Heights beginning in mid-June. Eastbound drivers will be able to go from Cayuga Heights toward Warren Road, Sapsucker Woods Road, Game Farm Road, and the Town of Dryden along Hanshaw Road, but should watch for lane shifts, construction vehicles, and work crews. An all-way stop will be in effect at the intersection of Hanshaw Road and Sapsucker Woods Road.

All westbound traffic must seek another route beginning at 7am on Monday, April 21st, such as taking Route 13 to the North Triphammer Road exit near the Shops at Ithaca Mall, even to visit homes or businesses along the affected stretch of Hanshaw Road. Sapsucker Woods Road is not a good detour, especially during heavy traffic times, as the intersection with Route 13 has no traffic signal.

The lane closure will affect not just the dozens of residents along Hanshaw Road, but people heading to homes and businesses on side streets like Kay and Muriel, those visiting the St. Catherine of Siena church, and many homeowners and apartment residents on Salem Drive and in neighboring apartment complexes.

The westbound closure is 24 hours a day and 7 days a week until Cortland's Suit-Kote Corporation, the project contractor, completes the project, which Tompkins County says will be in mid-July. This year's work, originally to have been completed by mid-May, "weather permitting," was delayed by an unusually late onset of spring weather. Plans for this spring include repaving Hanshaw Road and its new shoulders and walkway, and installing a traffic signal at the intersection with Warren Road.

In addition to landowners being forced to sell a portion of their property for the right-of-way required by the project, area residents have raised a variety of concerns at public meetings and discussions over the last nine years. Residents worry that the widened road will result in drivers going faster even though speed limits won't be raised, there's no accommodation to allow pedestrians to cross Hanshaw Road safely once they follow the walkway west to the Community Corners area, and the traffic light at Warren Road will require more drivers to wait, rather than stop at an all-way stop and then proceed. Project planners say they hope maintaining a "tree canopy" along the road will help drivers perceive it as a neighborhood road, rather than a highway. Early plans included the use of green-colored shoulder paint as a traffic-calming measure, but a recent project to add green shoulders along Ellis Hollow Road showed no noticeable traffic-calming effect.

"Do not travel westbound on the road, even for what you may consider a short distance," say County officials of the detour. "Following the proscribed traffic pattern is essential to everyone’s safety."

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