The tale of two roads is about to get a happy ending.
If you have driven south on Route 22 into Willsboro in recent years, you would know how desperately in need of reconstruction it was. It was a rocky ride from the Northway to the heart of Willsboro, with the twisty road marred by frost heaves, patches and broken pavement. It was enough to rattle your teeth.
After years of hearing complaints, the State Department of Transportation budgeted $2.2 million to reconstruct two miles of Route 22, from Station Road to Reber Road. The work, which started in the fall of 2010, included tearing up the existing asphalt pavement and completely reconstructing that section.
The result was a smooth and safer road for that bottom stretch into Willsboro. But the top section of Route 22 remained full of bumps and jolts, making for a harrowing — and, we believe, dangerous — ride, especially for motorcyclists and the many bicyclists who use the road.
The remaining road was not included in DOT’s 2011 budget. But, partly thanks to an intense lobbying effort led by Town Supervisor Ed Hatch, DOT funds were allocated this year for resurfacing other sections of the road. Work started on July 9. It will mean delays from the Willsboro/Essex line to the Chesterfield/Willsboro line. Even though that is happening during the busy season, we suggest patience because the road will be much improved by summer’s end.
This time, DOT isn’t doing a full reconstruction of the road, but a large section will be resurfaced, and that should smooth the ride to a satisfying degree.
The letter and email campaign instigated by Hatch certainly had an impact on DOT’s budget decision. The state agency had done car counts and found that section of Route 22 did not qualify as a heavy-traffic road, Hatch said, so some convincing was needed.
He contacted officials at Willsboro Central School, Willsboro Volunteer Fire Department, NYCO Minerals, bicycle and motorcycle clubs and people who lived in the area and urged them to write to DOT, and the community response was swift and effective. Personal testimony was abundant — bikers talked about safety; an EMT described what it was like to ride over the rough road with a patient in an ambulance.
Even after DOT allocated the money, more letters were sent to be sure the funds would remain in this year’s budget.
Hatch thinks the area’s Lakes to Locks and Scenic Byways designations also helped. Willsboro has earned a $775,000 Gateway Grant for community improvements and is seeking another, and Georgia-Pacific is investing $3 million in a riverside upgrade, all projects that will give people even more reason to visit the charming lakeside community.
Thanks to community pressure, those visitors, and summer and year-round residents, will soon have a peaceful ride into town.