ON THE MOVE — Traffic heads west on Route 825 on Griffiss Business and Technology park today, near the intersection with Perimeter Road. The state budget contains $10 million to renovate the two-lane portion of the highway, expanding the section to four lanes. Construction could start next spring. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

$10M puts Griffiss project in fast lane

Published May 6, 2015 at 4:00pm

The long-discussed completion of the main thoroughfare through Griffiss business park as a four-lane highway from end to end is moving toward construction.

There’s $10 million in the recently enacted state budget to rebuild the remaining two-lane section of the roadway and make it four lanes wide — like the rest of the road that connects Black River Boulevard and Route 49.

The money is part of the state Department of Transportation’s 2015-16 budget and has been added to the Oneida County project list on the DOT website.

There is a stretch of about one mile — roughly between the roundabout at Ellsworth and Geiger roads and the static B-52 display and Mohawk River bridge — that is two lanes wide. The sections on either end are already four lanes because of two earlier state construction projects. The state considers the pending construction to be the third phase of the reconstruction of the highway.

Until now, a lack of state funding has kept the long-term objective of making the roadway four lanes its full length.

However, contractors and earth-moving equipment won’t be on the job this year. Construction is unlikely to start before next spring with completion to follow in 2017. But with the end goal now closer than ever, Griffiss Local Development Corp., the group shepherding the conversion of the former Griffiss Air Force Base into a business park, is again taking a lead role to advance the project.

It has hired Barton & Loguidice in Liverpool to review, and update as needed, the design, specifications, environmental assessment and cost estimates the company previously prepared for this same project in 2009. The not-to-exceed contract total is $124,000. The engineering company can complete the review in less time — about three months — than it would take for DOT to hire a firm to update the plans and then for the vendor to do the work.

“It’s well worth it,” said GLDC Chairman Elis DeLia at the April 23 meeting of his board’s executive committee of the expense. GLDC has long advocated for the four-lane highway, maintaining it will not only improve traffic flow, but support business park development too.

GLDC paid B&L about $300,000 in 2009 to prepare “shovel-ready” plans when it looked like there might be federal stimulus dollars to construct the additional parkway lanes if the design was complete. This document was reviewed and accepted by DOT, but the money never materialized. The project has been on the shelf ever since.

“It’s the missing link,” said GLDC board member Douglas Bartell of the last stretch of two-lane roadway.

Once the Barton & Loguidice’s update is in hand, DOT should be able to review it and seek bids in the fall, Mark Reynolds, senior vice president for economic development at Mohawk Valley EDGE, told the GLDC committee last month. If contracts are awarded by early next year, construction will last two seasons, 2016 and 2017, he said.

The $10 million should be enough to pay for construction, even counting inflation since an estimate of $7 million was prepared by B&L nearly seven years ago.

Not only will the two-lane section be made four wide, but the project will feature the addition of two roundabouts, one at the intersection with Hangar Road and the other at Floyd Avenue and Brooks Road. Two houses near the latter intersection would be torn down as part of the project.

“Completion of the Griffiss Veterans Memorial Parkway will achieve one of Griffiss Local Development Corp.’s long-range economic development goals,” said Steven J. DiMeo, GLDC president. “With completion of the final leg of the parkway, access will be unencumbered into the park and allow for more parcels to be developed between Brooks Road and the Mohawk River bridge, an area that contains some of the most valuable real estate in the region but is relatively inaccessible without the project.”

There are more than 70 businesses at Griffiss with more than 5,800 employees.

Besides the road, the money also will build a multi-purpose recreational trail to connect with the Mohawk River/Erie Canal-way Trail System, construct sidewalks, provide decorative landscaping, and environmental stormwater management, according to language in the state budget.

Depending on location, the thoroughfare goes by several names, including Griffiss Parkway, Hill Road, Route 825 and Chestnut Street. All of Route 825 was designated the Griffiss Veterans’ Memorial Parkway in 2007 following the enactment of state legislation.

A 2012 state DOT traffic count showed 15,750 vehicles on weekdays on Route 825 between Floyd Avenue (Brooks Road) and Black River Boulevard.