City of Ithaca Common Council to Consider Phase 2 Trail Plans
Mayor Carolyn Peterson announced this week that Common Council’s City Administration Committee will discuss Phase 2 of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail at their meeting on Wednesday, April 29 at 7pm in City Hall at 108 E. Green Street. The full Common Council will discuss and possibly vote at their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 6 at 7pm in City Hall.
This will include consideration of the plan for the NYS Department of Transportation to take over land acquisition for Phase 2. See details below for more information.
WHAT CAN YOU DO:
§ Attend one or both of these meetings with short (2 – 3 minute) prepared statements to submit and/or to read.
(we may suggest that only some be read at the meeting out of consideration for Common Council and citizen’s time).
§ Email your statement to the Mayor and Common Council members in advance of the meeting.
§ Sign electronic petition in support of the trail at http://bikeithaca.org/?page_id=16
Contact Information for Mayor and Common Council
Mayor Carolyn Peterson email@example.com
Maria Coles firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Dotson email@example.com
Eric Rosario firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Tomlan email@example.com
Joel Zumoff firstname.lastname@example.org
Svante Myrick email@example.com
Nancy Schuler firstname.lastname@example.org
Robin Korherr email@example.com
Dan Cogan firstname.lastname@example.org
See link below for Ithaca Journal Article:
Visit www.cayugawaterfronttrail.com for more information and links to bridge plans and information.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE WATERFRONT TRAIL AND CURRENT PHASE 2 ISSUES
What is the Cayuga Waterfront Trail?
The Cayuga Waterfront Trail is a proposed six mile, multi-use trail planned to connect many of Ithaca’s most popular waterfront destinations including Cass Park, Inlet Island and the West End, the Farmers Market, Newman Golf Course, Stewart Park, the Youth Bureau and the County Visitors Center. The first phase of the trail, an accessible 2-mile loop in Cass Park, was completed in 2003 and is heavily used throughout the year by walkers, joggers, recreational cyclists, inline skaters, families with strollers, and dog owners. Construction of phase 3, linking the Ithaca Farmers Market to Stewart Park and the Visitor, is planned to begin in 2009 and likely to be completed in 2010.
What is the status of phase 2, which will link Cass Park to the Farmers Market?
The City received federal transportation enhancement funding for this mile and a half section in 2003 and has been working on trail design and acquiring the needed easements since that time. In late October of 2006 the City received final approval of its Design Approval Document and permission from NYSDOT to make financial offers to landowners for the required sixteen-foot-wide trail easement. These offers were made to all 6 landowners by March 2007. No agreements have been reached to date.
Late in 2008, New York State Department of Transportation approached the City of Ithaca offering to take over the land acquisition process for phase 2 of the trail. Common Council will consider this proposal at two upcoming meetings. The Common Council’s City Administration Committee will discuss this proposal on Wednesday, April 29 at 7pm in anticipation of a Common Council discussion and possible vote on Wednesday, May 6 at 7pm. Consider attending the meetings or contacting your Common Council member to express your view on this important next step in the phase 2 development process.
What are the options for crossing the Flood Control Channel and the Cayuga Inlet?
Bridging our waterways is expensive and adds significantly to the complexity of building the Waterfront Trail. The current phase 2 design calls for two waterway crossings along Route 96 at Inlet Island: one over the Flood Control Channel and one over the Cayuga Inlet.
Bridging the Flood Control Channel
Engineers estimate that building a new trail bridge over the 200’ wide Flood Control Channel between Cass Park and Inlet Island would cost more than $1 million. The existing Route 96 Bridge over the Flood Control Channel was constructed with 3 travel lanes, including a right-turn-only lane in the westbound direction that serves 8 homes located off of Park Drive, a dead end cul-de-sac. This lane is often illegally used as a passing lane by motorists continuing west on Route 96 and is viewed as a safety hazard by many regular bridge users. The trail design team views this lane as an opportunity to provide a cost-effective crossing that enhances traffic safety and operations. The proposal is to convert 7’ of the right-turn-only lane on the Route 96 Bridge for trail use, creating a 10-foot-wide, protected trail along the north side of the bridge). This will leave 32 feet of road space – twelve foot travel lanes with four foot shoulders in either direction, adequate space for emergency vehicles to pass between eastbound and westbound traffic that has stopped and pulled to the side of the lanes. Note that Cliff Street is 24’ wide from the traffic light west of the bridge to the City line and that 32’ is wider than most city streets with on-street parking, so the impacts on emergency vehicle access to the hospital are negligible. The estimated cost for converting 200’ of this bridge lane for trail use is $200,000 and NYSDOT is requiring that it be designed to be completely removable if a separate trail bridge is eventually constructed. It is important to note that the proposed lane conversion begins west of the entry to Pete’s and west of the railroad cars at Chemung Canal Trust Company and has no impact on the Route 96/Route 89 intersection or the Route 96 bridge over the Cayuga Inlet.
This proposal has been tested and videotaped twice by barreling off the right lane. The most recent test was done for a week in late April and early May of 2008. Both times, the merge worked smoothly and safely. Videotapes and other computer modeling data were reviewed by Bergmann Associates, the engineering consultant for phase 2 and New York State Department of Transportation. Both the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration have granted preliminary approval for this proposed lane conversion plan. In addition, Ithaca Fire Chief Brian Wilbur supports this proposal, saying that this solution has a minimal impact on emergency vehicle access through the West End. CWTI and the City believe that the proposed design is a cost-effective and safe design, both for trail users and for motorists.
Bridging the Cayuga Inlet at Route 96
Phase 2 plans call for a new trail bridge over the Cayuga Inlet to be located just north of the Buffalo Street Bridge between the Jewel Box and Instant Printing properties. This crossing is approximately 90’ in length and will cost approximately $150,000 to install. There will be no impact on the existing Route 96/Buffalo Street bridge over the Inlet.
Analysis of the Trail Bridge Concept Proposed to Link Cass Park to the Ithaca Farmers Market
Some phase 2 landowners have proposed that there should be a trail bridge constructed over the Cayuga Inlet linking the Farmers Market and Cass Park. Upon first glance, this appears to be an idea with great merit. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for market visitors to be able to walk from Cass Park or for kids who live downtown to be able to walk or bike directly from the Market to play ball or swim in Cass Park! While this would appear beneficial, upon closer review this idea is simply not affordable or feasible.
First, the bridge in this location over the 400’ wide Inlet would have to be 35’ high to allow the MV Columbia tour boat to pass beneath. Even at a 35’ height, sailboat access would be cut off to Inlet Island, the Inlet Boating Center, Cayuga Wooden Boatworks, Boatyard Grill and marina and docking facilities along the Cayuga Inlet. A 50 to 60’ height is required to accommodate sailboat access. It is also important to note that this bridge will need to be accessible and bridge heights of 35’ and above will force the bridge ramps to be considerably longer that the 400’ Inlet width, or, alternatively, require expensive elevators or lift bridge designs.
Second, the suggested bridge cost being discussed by advocates is a very low estimate, by a factor of 2 or more, according to experienced bridge engineers. Both Bergmann Associates, the Phase 2 engineering consultant, and Peter Novelli, who designed the Gateway Bridge near Buttermilk Falls State Park, agree that the 400’ long trail bridge between Cass Park and the market would cost between $3 and $4 million even if designed at only a 15’ height, significantly more than the funding available for phase 2 and well more than estimated by the Echo Bridge Company.
Third, the current trail design will link Inlet Island to other waterfront destinations, providing transportation, recreation, and economic benefits to many existing and new Inlet Island businesses. Many of these businesses, including Chemung Canal Trust Company, the Jewelbox, Island Health and Fitness, Rasa Spa, Cayuga Medical Center, the Boatyard Grill and Cayuga Wooden Boatworks, support the current trail design and recently sent a letter to Common Council urging them to proceed with the project as designed. Waterfront plans developed during the 1990’s, such as the Tompkins County Waterfront Plan and the Cayuga Lake Waterfront Revitalization Plan, laid the planning foundation for both the Waterfront Trail development effort and the new development that has occurred on Inlet Island during the past 10 years. These plans described Inlet Island as a Cayuga Lake Port, a vibrant waterfront district with mixed use development, public access to the waterway edges, and enhanced docking and marina operations. To achieve this vision, the City needs to promote pedestrian, bicycle and boat access to Inlet Island and develop phase 2 as currently planned.