Saturday, July 28, 2001

4th Taconic crossing closes

2 more medians still to be shut

By Michael Valkys
Poughkeepsie Journal

FREEDOM PLAINS -- Four down, two to go.

The Arthursburg Road median crossing on the Taconic State Parkway in LaGrange -- one of the busiest of six intersections set for closure by the end of the summer -- was shut down Friday following the morning rush hour.

Four of six Taconic median crossings set for closure are now shut.

State transportation officials describe the closures as a temporary measure taken while a review of needed improvements on the Taconic is completed. A report with recommendations on the highway's future is due in the fall.

State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Colleen McKenna said Friday's closing was uneventful, but she said some drivers will be affected because of the number of people who used the Arthursburg crossing.

''It is one of the busier ones,'' McKenna said. ''I'm sure some people will be inconvenienced. But I hope they can bear with the department while we try to come up with some long-term solutions.''

Closings to continue

The closing of the median at Arthursburg follows Monday's closure of the Todd Hill Road crossing, also in LaGrange. State officials next month will continue the series of temporary closures designed to improve safety on the highway when the final crossings at Carpenter and Hosner Mountain roads in East Fishkill are closed. No date has been set for the closures, but DOT officials said they should be shut by mid-to-late August.

In all, six median crossings on the parkway in southern Dutchess County will be closed by the end of August. In one case, at Bogardus Lane, the intersection was closed completely.

The median closures bar drivers from making left-hand turns onto or off the Taconic.

The closures, announced following a fatal accident at the Carpenter Road intersection in late May, have sparked debate among local officials, drivers and the state DOT.

Proponents of the DOT's plan say it makes the 104-mile highway safer. They point to the 10 fatalities that have occurred at the at-grade crossings since 1994.

Closure opponents say they will force more traffic on local roads and hinder access of emergency vehicles, which the DOT denies.

State officials say emergency vehicles will still be able to cross the medians because the barriers installed are designed to allow such vehicles to pass, but not cars.

One commuter who has been using the Taconic for 30 years said he opposes the Arthursburg closure, predicting it will lead to more accidents at the Route 82 exit.

''I think they are going to have a lot of accidents at Route 82,'' said John McCann, a LaGrange resident who commutes on the Taconic daily to work in Danbury, Conn. ''You see a lot of skid marks where people skid across that intersection.''

Others said the closures have already caused them inconvenience.

''I absolutely hate it,'' said Town of Poughkeepsie resident Kristin Dezendorf, a riding instructor. ''I was late for a few appointments.... It takes me a lot longer now to get where I want to go.''

Some welcome safer roads

But others said the closures have made the road safer.

''It's definitely safer,'' said LaGrangeville resident Larry Greene, who uses the road to commute to work in White Plains.

''I think it's a good idea,'' said Beekman resident Ann Marie Drummond. ''They have to do something.''

The safety of the parkway's at-grade Dutchess County intersections has been a concern in recent years as traffic on the road has increased as more people commute to and from jobs in New York City and Westchester County.

The closure of Arthursburg could also lead to increased traffic at the Route 55 exit from the parkway, a main thoroughfare for people to access the highway from Poughkeepsie and LaGrange.

The DOT has suggested alternate routes for drivers and has sent out thousands of fliers to area homes to advise residents of the ongoing changes along the parkway.

The DOT suggests drivers who normally use the Arthursburg median should head to Route 55 west into Poughkeepsie.

Route 82 exit is alternate

The DOT said drivers on the northbound Taconic can also use the Route 82 exit to head north to Dutchess County Route 21 west, which brings drivers to Noxon Road and back into Poughkeepsie.

Meanwhile, East Fishkill officials oppose some of the closures and have hinted at a possible court fight to prevent them.

Supervisor Peter Idema said Friday the town is monitoring the impact of the Arthursburg and other closings.

''We'll decide what action to take once we see what the downstream results are,'' Idema said.

LaGrange Supervisor George Wade III has said he supports the DOT's plan to temporarily close the Arthursburg median while officials consider long-term solutions. But he is concerned the closing may mean more traffic on local roads.