EnvironmentThe Examiner

Traffic Safety, Disturbance Focus of Hearing on DEP Tunnel in Mt. Pleasant

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Traffic safety and disturbance from construction and blasting were residents’ chief concerns for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s (DE) 10-year construction project of a new water tunnel in Mount Pleasant.

About a dozen speakers raised worries during the resumption of the town Plalning Board’s public hearing last Thursday about the Kensico-Eastview Connection Project that would take water from the city’s reservoirs, through the Delaware and Catskill aqueducts and into the Catskill Delaware Ultraviolet Light Disinfection Facility (CDUV) on its property in Valhalla.

Currently, there is not enough pressure from the Catskill aqueduct to get the water to the treatment facility, exposing the DEP and water customers to a potential water outage if the Delaware aqueduct failed or needed to be taken offline.

Some residents sounded the alarm about the need for a traffic light at Westlake Drive and Columbus Avenue with a decade of construction vehicles and activity near the site. Resident Betty Brady said with the site in close proximity to Valhalla High School and many inexperienced drivers, the town needs to demand DEP install a traffic signal.

“There’s a school right there, there’s kids learning to drive who just got their license, why on God’s name would we want to wait for an accident to happen?” Brady said. “To me, it’s outrageous. Safety is priority, especially for kids, and if it was my child going to school there, I’d want a light there.”

Before the Planning Board took comments from the public, DEP representatives said that its study found a light at that location would not be needed.

But board member Joan Lederman pushed back on that position.

“It may not be needed as per a code, but it may be needed for safety,” Lederman said. “There are children crossing there, pedestrians are crossing there, and there’s traffic going in and out. At least for the safety of the pedestrians, I think a traffic light would be warranted.”

West High Street resident Jamie Wilson expressed concern about the decibel levels from the site. Projected levels are estimated to be between 50 and 75 decibels, which would be problematic, especially toward the upper part of that scale, he said.

With construction and blasting, when it occurs, to extend into the evening, there is potential for long-term disruption of quality of life, Wilson protested.

“We’re going to have to take a look at that because it’s not okay,” Wilson said. “It’s not just us, but there are a bunch of other houses there, they’re right along Westlake Drive there, and if these guys are slamming away till 11:30 at night, you’ve got families there that have to get up in the morning.”

Construction, according to the DEP representatives at last week’s hearing, is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and until 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Blasting could be done 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Wilson also suggested the boards apply some pressure on the DEP to open the crossing to the dam to relieve any traffic pressure caused by the construction. The dam has been closed since Sept. 11, 2001.

Columbus Avenue resident Dennis Spinelli voiced displeasure about the traffic potential traffic problems and safety concerns that could be created. He also took issue with whether the DEP is prepared to have unattractive construction fencing.

“The DEP dumps on our town the whole time,” Spinelli said. “They put up that whole fence system without any permits or anything. They closed the dam which has forced all the traffic to go into our town.”

Board Chairman James Collins said it will be important for the DEP to erect a more attractive fence when the main part of the construction occurs.

“Ten years is a long time,” Collins said. “I know we have subsequent phases to look at, but 10 years, looking at an eight-foot construction fence, is a long time.”

The decade-long work will be done in four phases, with four separate contracts to be signed. Last week’s hearing, which was closed by the board last Thursday, pertained only to the first phase, which is site preparation and the construction of the shaft to enable crews to starting burrowing through rock to build the tunnel, which will be 27 feet in diameter. It will be built about 300 feet underground and extend roughly 400 feet.

In addition to the shaft, the first phase, mostly at the Kensico campus closest the reservoir, would also include establishing a staging area for the project, relocation of Westlake Drive to the northern side of the DEP’s property and construction of a 30-space parking lot near Valhalla High School to replace public parking that would be lost near the site.

There would also be construction of a new water supply enclosure on Lakeview Avenue and a new electrical building with exterior lighting on the property along with the inclusion of stormwater management measures.

The remaining phases will also require separate hearings and approvals.

Dan Michaud, chief of the DEP’s upstate water supply capital design program, said the agency hopes to have work on the first phase begin before the end of the year. It is expected to last about two years.

Michaud said the DEP is hoping the project is completed in less than 10 years, since it is under a consent decree from the federal government to make improvements to its system.

He also pledged that the DEP would have someone serve as a public liaison for the community to ask questions and voice concerns and to have a public information session before the start of the second phase.

The DEP would also reconsider the need for a traffic light at Westlake Drive and Columbus Avenue, Michaud said.




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