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Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council and Tompkins County Announce Progress on Pine Tree Road Improvement Project

Grant secured through STREDC Community Revitalization Program to support road and bridge repairs as part of pedestrian trail expansion
(October 03, 2012)

Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council and Tompkins County Announce Progress on Pine Tree Road Improvement Project

The Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council (STREDC) today announced that Tompkins County has been awarded $512,000 from the Community Revitalization Program to assist with improvements to Pine Tree Road. The funding will support the cost of road and bridge repairs between Route 366 and Maple Avenue, being undertaken as a part of a larger effort to expand pedestrian and bicycle connections among the East Hill area, Cornell, and a proposed bikeway extending to Varna and Dryden.

“The Regional Council initiative has been successful in finding great local business to support in order to grow our economy, however community revitalization projects like the Pine Tree Road improvements are just as important to a strong economy,” said David Skorton, Regional Council Co-chair and President of Cornell University. “This project will provide residents with more options to walk, bike, run and enjoy the outdoors while encouraging visitors, and even some locals, to take advantage of what this area has to offer.”

“By empowering localities to choose projects that will have a positive benefit on the quality of life for residents and local businesses bottom lines, the Council is fulfilling Governor Cuomo’s innovative, community-based vision for regional economic development,” said Tom Tranter, Regional Council Co-chair and President & CEO of Corning Enterprises. “The Ithaca area attracts thousands of visitors every year with its scenic gorges and premier colleges, and through the expansion of these pedestrian and bicycle connections we are making the area an even more attractive destination. An increase in visitors will provide an economic boost to local businesses, helping to grow the Southern Tier’s economy. We are proud to support this project and look forward to its completion.”

The Pine Tree Road project advances the vision of creating safe, viable, year-round commuting options incorporated in the transportation plans of the Town of Ithaca and Cornell University. It builds on an extensive system of pedestrian and bicycle trails that has been developed and maintained by the Town of Ithaca.

“Thanks to this grant from the Southern Tier Regional Council, we can coordinate roadway improvements to address longstanding road maintenance and safety concerns, including adequate road shoulders for experienced bicyclists and new, off-road trails for pedestrians and casual bikers,” said Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson. “As this planned development area grows, providing alternatives to vehicular transportation will mitigate traffic and make the East Hill area an even more walkable, bikable, livable community.”

Town of Ithaca Supervisor Herb Engman said, “This funding will help create safe off-road bicycle and pedestrian routes from a projected high-growth area of the Town to the Cornell campus. Not incidentally it will also allow the construction of the walkway at a width and slope that will enable the Town to maintain it in a safe and more cost-effective manner.”

The full plan for the Pine Tree Road project includes widening and improving the road under the former railroad bridge, replacing or improving that bridge, building a pedestrian and bike trail on land adjacent to Pine Tree Road, and improving access to the trail near Maple Avenue. The project is a priority within the Town of Ithaca’s Transportation Plan and Cornell University’s Master Plan.

The goals of the State’s Smart Growth Infrastructure Policy and the County’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy are advanced by several elements of the project, including the strategic targeting of resources to an area already served by existing infrastructure in order to stabilize existing development and leverage future in-fill development, and the substantive measures to reduce reliance on vehicular transportation. Additionally, by improving the livability of the area, the project will also serve the community’s goal of locating a range of housing options in the area, helping address a housing shortage that not only causes extraordinary levels of out-of-county commuting (14,000/day), but also undermines the area’s ability to recruit businesses and residents.

The public-private partnership supporting this $1.47 million project has secured $956,734 in addition to the $512,000 from the State, including $686,734 in Federal Highway Enhancement Program funding, a $200,000 contribution from Cornell University, and $35,000 commitments from the Town of Ithaca and Tompkins County.

The project is shovel ready and now proceeding to the final design stage, with construction expected to begin 2013 and be completed before the end of the year. For more information on the project, visit http://www.tompkins-co.org/highway/pinetree.html.

Last year, a total of $785 million was awarded through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) for job creation and community development projects consistent with each region’s strategic plans. As part of that process, the STREDC was awarded $2.5 million to create the Community Revitalization Program to help facilitate the redevelopment of downtown and community center locations to encourage investment and job creation. Tompkins County applied for assistance through the program and was awarded $512,000 specifically for the road and bridge improvements of the Pine Tree Road project.

The Community Revitalization Program facilitates the redevelopment of downtown and community center as part of the STREDC’s strategy to strengthen the Southern Tier’s economic development backbone. The program assists community neighborhood commercial center revitalization projects to improve downtowns with mixed-use residential/commercial and retail opportunities. Communities utilizing these funds have the ability to identify their own priorities and structure projects to support unique local needs in targeted areas. Eligible applicants include cities, towns and villages within the eight counties in the Southern Tier Region. The available resources provide gap financing for capital use and will leverage additional financing from federal, state, municipal, and local development agencies, and corporations and private sector entities.

To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov. For information on how the New New York is working for business, please visit www.thenewny.com.

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