BY MICHAEL RICONDA
New City – The Rockland County Legislature’s Planning and Public Works Committee held a discussion session on July 30 to examine solutions to the situation on Thiells-Mt.Ivy Road, a county road in North Rockland which has long been criticized for unsafe conditions.
In response to suggestions by resident and input from the County Highway Department, the Committee agreed to plan a separate, joint review of the issue by Planning and Public Works and Budget & Finance Committees. The review was planned to occur in three to four months, following a separate, full review of the road by the County Highway Department.
The road, which stretches from Route 202 to Letchworth Village Road, has existed as a county road since the turn of the century and has been subject to requests for alteration since the 1970s. According to Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips, issues surrounding the road worsened in the 1980s when it began to be used as a major means of travelling south to reach the Palisades Interstate Parkway.
“Route 202 at times can become a parking lot,” Phillips explained. “What has occurred is people are circumventing Route 202 with 9W and finding alternate means. The major alternate means has been Thiells-Mt. Ivy Road.”
Since then, residents frequently pointed out the road’s lack of adequate lighting, drainage and sight distance which worsen conditions in the winter. Residents have also complained that due to its two-lane layout and lack of shoulders, the road does not have enough room for the volume of traffic it handles.
“I have been a North Rockland resident for the past 17 years and I have lived here since I was 12,” Local activist and petitioner Nita Wilson explained. “I have noticed a lot more traffic on this road now than in the past, which can’t be a good thing because the road is in such a state of neglect and over 1,000 residents feel it is unsafe.”
Calls for road updates increased with the death of Clarkstown north High School graduate Anthony Amoros in January 2013. In response to frustrations, a petition was distributed calling for a discussion of residents’ concerns about the road.
The meeting produced a strong turnout, particularly among young friends of Amoros who attended to support road improvements. According to petitioner Steven Harris, the petition gathered around 1,250 signatures at last count.
“It’s when you get a group of people together that people listen,” Harris explained. “I promise you if it does not get done, I will come back and I will have more names.”
According to Phillips, the town studied the road improvements and made a submission to the state for a Transportation Enhancement Program (TEP) grant to fund repairs in 2009, but was declined. However, County Highway Superintendent Skip Vezzetti explained the project has been reintroduced into the Capital Projects Committee a few weeks ago.
“My understanding is that it will be approved,” Vezzetti explained. “Besides that, we will be resubmitting this again to the TEP. It’s been about seven years since we did it the last time and we’re hoping we’ll acquire adequate funding to do a full reconstruction of the roadway.”
In the short-term, however, locals suggested various short-term fixes such as additional road signs, stronger enforcement of traffic laws, street light additions and guard rails. Vezzetti explained that though some measures such as guard rails would require time to determine their ideal locations and follow proper procedure and both lighting and speed limits were not under county jurisdiction, reviews of the road continue and solutions are coming.
“We’ve looked at some relatively minor road improvements that we can do within a year or in the short term to help improve it,” Vezzetti added.