Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Taconic protest begins

East Fishkill officials oppose closings

By Anthony P. Musso
For the Poughkeepsie Journal

HOPEWELL JUNCTION -- East Fishkill officials have started a letter-writing campaign in opposition of recent and planned median closures on the Taconic State Parkway in the town.

Named ''Bridges not Barriers,'' the campaign requests New York Gov. George Pataki intercede on an issue officials consider detrimental to the area with heavy traffic diverted from the closed medians.

Transportation officials are temporarily closing the medians as they study long-term improvements on the parkway. The decision came because of the high volume of traffic at the intersections and design believed to increase risks for those crossing the parkway.

Finding solutions

The letter says there is growing town support of the state's plan to eliminate at-grade crossings by building overpasses. The Department of Transportation abandoned the plan in favor of its recent installation of barriers.

Citing the closings as a "quick-fix" to DOT safety concerns, it charges serious economic and safety hardships on local residents and increased safety problems for travelers on the parkway.

"The quick fix will increase speed on the Taconic, force us and our children to use longer and circuitous routes, often on steep country roads -- especially in bad weather -- and prevents local farmers from sharing equipment," the letter states.

Long way around

Elton Bailey, who runs a farm on Hosner Mountain Road -- a median planned to close later this summer -- said the closing will not only cause safety issues in the form of delayed emergency services but also present financial and business difficulties.

"We share farm equipment with Jackson Farms on the other side of the Taconic," Bailey said. "We will be forced to go over and down the mountain onto Route 52 to get there. It's more time-consuming and more costly."

Bailey said getting deliveries and selling cattle would also be affected.

Town Supervisor Peter Idema said increased traffic on the town's roads causes a greater safety concern.

"We're pulling out all the stops to fight this so that we don't have this concentration of traffic through residential neighborhoods," he said. "... it's not very safe, especially in the winter when it's icy. The roads are not too wide and not too smooth."

Idema said letters for residents to send to Gov. Pataki are available at the East Fishkill Town Hall and the library, both on Route 376 in Hopewell Junction.