New park entrance causes traffic questions
WATKINS GLEN--The recent announcement of a $6.5 million project to renovate the entrance at the Watkins Glen State Park has some officials concerned with the traffic impact. Police Chief Tom Struble highlighted some questions he had about traffic flow during the last village board meeting. The board expressed the desire to meet with state officials and the park manager to see if this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Redevelopment of the park's entrance will include relocating the parking area away from the gorge, across Franklin Street. The current main entrance parking lot will be returned to green space.
With the parking lot moving across the street, this means park visitors will now have to cross Franklin Street in order to reach the main park entrance. This has led to the concern about more frequent traffic backups, especially during the already congested summer months. Struble said he does not have many answers to these questions until they are able to set up a meeting with the state.
Director of the Finger Lakes State Park Region Fred Bonn said Watkins Glen State Park drew more than 838,534 visitors last year, but not all of them enter through the main entryway. He added the project is actually expected to improve vehicular traffic flow on village streets, as well as pedestrian traffic flow in the park.
Bonn noted the state plans to move the crosswalk and traffic light in front of the park to the 10th Street intersection. He said there will be a timed light which will not only improve traffic at the area, but will also make it safer for pedestrian crossing. In addition to the new parking lot, Bonn said the north parking lot will remain on the gorge side.
"The DOT (Department of Transportation) is very excited because we will be limiting mid-block street crossings," Bonn said. "It is going to be far more organized and safer...We will have more pedestrian crossings, but it will be timed around the light. It will be a much safer, controlled environment."
Bonn said they are moving the gate and booth where visitors pay to enter the park to the new lot so people can pull in, pay and place the receipt on their dashboard before entering the park. He noted state parks does not anticipate a negative impact to traffic or safety, and has received support from the sheriff's department, county executive and the DOT. Bonn said there was not enough budgeted for something like a sky bridge to be built over Franklin Street between the new parking lot and park entrance.
"Commissioner Rose Harvey charged my staff, myself and the designers on addressing the safety in the park, the street crossing, and the vehicular moving of traffic up and down Franklin Street," Bonn said.
Bonn said he has made multiple offers to make a presentation to all of the trustees, an offer that still stands, but added as of press time Monday, March 14, he has not heard from the village about a potential meeting.