Friday, August 31, 2001

State delays closing Taconic crossing

By Michael Valkys
Poughkeepsie Journal

HOPEWELL JUNCTION -- The Hosner Mountain Road median crossing on the Taconic State Parkway -- once slated to be closed by today -- will remain open for at least two more weeks, state officials said Thursday.

State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Col-leen McKenna said the delay comes as officials try to develop a plan that would not cut off residents on the eastern side of Hosner Mountain from local stores and services.

''We need to come up with a viable solution,'' McKenna said, adding no decision has been made. ''It shouldn't be that much longer, but we're not going to do something that we're not comfortable with.''

Officials had hoped six median crossings on the parkway would have been closed before school started next week. Five have already been shut.

Hosner Mountain is the last of six at-grade intersections being closed by state officials in response to safety concerns. The temporary median closures prevent drivers from crossing the parkway and from making left turns onto or from the Taconic.

The closures come as the DOT continues to work on a long-term plan, expected by the fall, to improve safety on the highway. The closures have been met markedly different reactions from residents. Proponents say they are needed to improve safety along the parkway, which has seen large increases in traffic in recent years.

Opponents say the closures are an inconvenience and they only shift traffic hazards to local roads.

Longer trip home

Nancy Minard, who lives on Hosner Mountain Road, said closure of the road will add time to her trip to work and generally make it difficult to get around town.

''It's going to make it very hard to get home,'' she said.

The plan to close the medians followed a fatal accident at Carpenter Road in East Fishkill in late May.

Town of East Fishkill officials have voiced their unhappiness over some of the closures, hinting at potential legal action.

''We're waiting to see what happens when school gets back in session,'' East Fishkill Supervisor Peter Idema said. ''Hosner is one of the ones we're extremely concerned about. That's one of the ones with the greatest degree of impact.''

School bus routes will also be affected by the closings. Students return to most local schools next Wednesday and Thursday.

Along with last week's closing at Carpenter Road, the state has also shut median crossings at Bogardus Lane and Stormville, Todd Hill and Arthursburg roads.

The 104-mile Taconic runs from Westchester County to south of Albany. In all, 10 people have died since 1994 at ''at-grade'' crossings along the Dutchess County stretch of the parkway.