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Village resident questions Potsdam riverwalk project

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POTSDAM - The ongoing Potsdam riverwalk transformation project has raised some concerns with a village resident.

Phil Hopke questioned the designation of the work as a transportation project versus a recreation based one during a public hearing on the plan Mondayt evening. Mr. Hopke is the husband of Potsdam Village Trustee Eleanor Hopke.

“It’s hard to see this as a transportation project. It’s a nice recreation project, but it’s hard to see it as transportation relative to other things in the village which would be much more important in terms of transportation like a bike lane program where we really have a network. I think there’d be a real opportunity to have us be much more bike friendly,” he said.

“We also have a number of areas where there are no sidewalks at all. Is it really in our best interest to put the effort now into really a recreation project or should we really be thinking about some transportation issues?”

Potsdam Planning and Development Director Fred J. Hanss said that when the group added the village’s only two bike lanes, located on Clarkson Avenue, they polled people in the biking community. The general response was that they preferred not to be stuck in bike lanes, according to Mr. Hanss.

“There are also some very practical problems with bike lanes on a lot of the village streets that are made for transportation where you simply don’t have enough roadway width in order to have a four- or five-foot bicycle lane,” Mr. Hanss said.

The village board adopted the 10-year Downtown and Waterfront Revitalization Plan in 2012, which was developed by a local waterfront advisory committee. This group was comprised of village residents and stakeholders.

Among the items in the plan was the development of the downtown riverwalk, whose focus was to develop a pedestrian and bicycle path as a safe and convenient connector route to destinations within the village.

“(It) would travel down Maple Street to the hydro electric facility that we just completed on the west dam. ... Essentially the plan would be to secure a right of way from Swan Landing, come with a switch back path that would take users up to the Sandstone Drive, where they would come up on the sidewalk and this would be ADA compliant,” Mr. Hanss said.

As part of the project, the village will install signage directions for the public to destinations within the village.

The anticipated budget for the project is approximately $500,000, up to 80 percent of which the village is seeking to be covered by federal reimbursement. The village would use its own resources to pay the remaining 20 percent, according to Mr. Hanss.

The estimated costs are based on projections from the project’s engineer, Chazen Companies.

“We asked them to make the projections top heavy on contingency. The DOT also wants to see at least a 20 percent construction inflation factor put into this because it is a four- to five-year project,” Mr. Hanss said. “The village would have to come up with $100,000 in matching funds. We would get that from two sources - the Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization program has already given us a $27,500 grant to do preliminary design work and to come up with what’s called construction requirements analysis.”

The rest of the funding would likely come from the village’s general fund.

The project would consist of a six-foot wide bicycle path, a barrier and then a five-foot sidewalk.

The village will applying for funding in early June. Funding announcements are anticipated by Oct. 8.

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