Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council and Tompkins County Announce Progress on Pine Tree Road Improvement Project

By WBNG News

Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council and Tompkins County Announce Progress on Pine Tree Road Improvement Project

October 3, 2012 Updated Oct 3, 2012 at 12:54 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) The Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council on Wednesday announced that Tompkins County has been awarded $512,000 from the Community Revitalization Program to assist with improvements to Pine Tree Road.

According to a news release:

The funding will support the cost of road and bridge repairs between Route 366 and Maple Avenue, being undertaken as a part of a larger effort to expand pedestrian and bicycle connections among the East Hill area, Cornell, and a proposed bikeway extending to Varna and Dryden.

“The Regional Council initiative has been successful in finding great local business to support in order to grow our economy, however community revitalization projects like the Pine Tree Road improvements are just as important to a strong economy,” said David Skorton, Regional Council Co-chair and President of Cornell University. “This project will provide residents with more options to walk, bike, run and enjoy the outdoors while encouraging visitors, and even some locals, to take advantage of what this area has to offer.”

“By empowering localities to choose projects that will have a positive benefit on the quality of life for residents and local businesses bottom lines, the Council is fulfilling Governor Cuomo’s innovative, community-based vision for regional economic development,” said Tom Tranter, Regional Council Co-chair and President & CEO of Corning Enterprises. “The Ithaca area attracts thousands of visitors every year with its scenic gorges and premier colleges, and through the expansion of these pedestrian and bicycle connections we are making the area an even more attractive destination. An increase in visitors will provide an economic boost to local businesses, helping to grow the Southern Tier’s economy. We are proud to support this project and look forward to its completion.”

The Pine Tree Road project advances the vision of creating safe, viable, year-round commuting options incorporated in the transportation plans of the Town of Ithaca and Cornell University. It builds on an extensive system of pedestrian and bicycle trails that has been developed and maintained by the Town of Ithaca.

“Thanks to this grant from the Southern Tier Regional Council, we can coordinate roadway improvements to address longstanding road maintenance and safety concerns, including adequate road shoulders for experienced bicyclists and new, off-road trails for pedestrians and casual bikers,” said Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson. “As this planned development area grows, providing alternatives to vehicular transportation will mitigate traffic and make the East Hill area an even more walkable, bikable, livable community.”

Town of Ithaca Supervisor Herb Engman said, “This funding will help create safe off-road bicycle and pedestrian routes from a projected high-growth area of the Town to the Cornell campus. Not incidentally it will also allow the construction of the walkway at a width and slope that will enable the Town to maintain it in a safe and more cost-effective manner.”

The full plan for the Pine Tree Road project includes widening and improving the road under the former railroad bridge, replacing or improving that bridge, building a pedestrian and bike trail on land adjacent to Pine Tree Road, and improving access to the trail near Maple Avenue. The project is a priority within the Town of Ithaca’s Transportation Plan and Cornell University’s Master Plan.

The goals of the State’s Smart Growth Infrastructure Policy and the County’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy are advanced by several elements of the project, including the strategic targeting of resources to an area already served by existing infrastructure in order to stabilize existing development and leverage future in-fill development, and the substantive measures to reduce reliance on vehicular transportation. Additionally, by improving the livability of the area, the project will also serve the community’s goal of locating a range of housing options in the area, helping address a housing shortage that not only causes extraordinary levels of out-of-county commuting (14,000/day), but also undermines the area’s ability to recruit businesses and residents.

The public-private partnership supporting this $1.47 million project has secured $956,734 in addition to the $512,000 from the State, including $686,734 in Federal Highway Enhancement Program funding, a $200,000 contribution from Cornell University, and $35,000 commitments from the Town of Ithaca and Tompkins County.

The project is shovel ready and now proceeding to the final design stage, with construction expected to begin 2013 and be completed before the end of the year.

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