In the city of Utica, the north-south arterial, which connects three major state routes, has divided the west side from the rest of the city. But after years of debate, the state Department of Transportation is now rebuilding the road, with the goal to make the arterial safer and allow people and cars to move more freely between the two sections of Utica. The city says the project will also help its revitalization effort.
The $65 million project includes raising part of the four-lane highway to remove a complicated intersection, removing a dangerous curve that has been in place since its construction in the 1960s and building a pedestrian bridge crossing the arterial. Jim Piccola, with the state DOT, says the changes will help both drivers and pedestrians.
"They're going to have a safe refuge at the crossings there, so people will feel very safe going from the downtown area over into the west side or the brewery district, and vice versa," Piccola said.
The changes are not only meant to make the road safer and easier to navigate, but according to Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, will link the city's rejuvenated west side neighborhoods with downtown.
"There are exits and entrances, which are all now reintroducing into the west Utica area," Palmieri said. "Which again, let's talk about the Matt Brewery, let's talk about all the great things that are happening on the west side of it. So, now there is a purpose to go over there."
Palmieri also says rebuilding the city's aging arterial is the latest step in Utica's recent efforts to revitalize the economically struggling city.
"The greater Utica area is a very strong destination for tourists, for new jobs and for the foundation of which we feel is the excitement and the realization of which we haven't seen in the last maybe 50 or 60 years," Palmieri explained.
Piccola says the project could also impact the number of businesses attracted to the area.
"You know, anytime you see companies looking at future places to either put their companies or locate, definitely infrastructure is the one thing they look at," Piccola said. "The accessibility, the mobility that you're going to see a lot of development not only north or south of us, but around west Utica and the downtown area."
But years of debate about the arterial project and opposition form some west side residents, where dozens of homes were demolished and a lot of the construction will take place, has slowed the process. Piccola says he understands their issues.
"It's a lot to ask of them, and it's going to be a lot over the next few years, with a lot of the construction going on," Piccola said. "We just hope that as we reach out to them as the project continues to develop, that we will work with them, listen to their needs, their concerns, and get the project built."
Two other smaller pieces of the $65 million project are nearly complete, and are anticipated to be finished this summer.