It looks like the last dirt road remaining in New Castle will not be paved, after all. Instead, there will be more focus placed on improving drainage.
Anthony Vaccaro, commissioner for the town's Department of Public Works (DPW) gave a presentation at Monday's Town Board meeting, noting that the preference is to keep the dirt portion of Old Roaring Brook Road just that.
In recent years, the town the dirt portion - part of Old Roaring Brook is already paved - as a way to cut down on maintenance costs. Town budgeting for the project was prepared, but Vaccaro explained that he met with officials from two regulatory groups, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York City's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP was concerned that pavement, which would involve an oil-and-chip method, would create more pervious surface, and thus posing a disruptive threat to the hydrology of the area.
The entity was also concerns about wetlands protection, he said. Vaccaro added that a consulting engineer was hired to look at the wetland buffer areas. An agremeent was then reached that it would be permissible to pave three parts of the road without restrictions. Doing so for the others would require further review, Vaccaro explained.
“So at that point I time I thought we had a partial victory," he said.
Vaccaro changed his opinion after hearing from members of the public, who view the loss of a dirt road as an aesthetic problem. Also concerns were that pavement could encourage speeding, and as a result, vehicle accidents.
Vaccaro ended up consulting with Kevin Winn, Bedford's DPW commissioner - the town has many dirt roads - for advice. Explaining to the audience, Vaccaro stated that Winn placed an emphasis on better drainage, which is important regardless of whether or not a road is paved or dirt.
Recently, Vaccaro has been trying out ways to improve Old Roaring Brook. He noted that the road was graded in early August, coupled with better ditches. The improved ditches contributed to lower maintenance costs, he explained, because they held up long. However, close to the presentation date, Vaccaro noted that sediment is starting to fill the ditches up, so more work will be needed soon.
Due to his findings, Vaccaro told folks that he came to the conclusion that pavement will not be needed if the drainage can be fixed.
The road ditching concept, which Vaccaro explained, helps because if allows for roads to shed water off quicker. Vaccaro also discussed cross sloping the road, providing the ditches.
Key to the town's strategy is to get funding for the design and construction from a regional group tasked with handling water management issues. The group is called the Croton Kensico Watershed Intermunicipal Coalition (CKWIC), and includes several member towns from throughout the region, including New Castle.
Town Administrator Penny Paderewski said that Vaccaro, along with Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull, are working on an application to CKWIC.
“We’re very optimistic about it," Paderewski said of the process.
While ditching is being eyed, the town is keeping an open mind as to what else can be done, it was explained at the meeting.
A majority of residents who spoke reacted favorably to keeping the road in dirt form.
One woman who lives on Old Roaring Brook noted that Bedford's dirt roads are kept in good shape, and that, based on her anecdote, “they just drained beautifully.” She also felt that the town should consider looking at a comprehensive way of fixing the road, so that it could be done in a way that “wasn’t just patch work all the time."
Responding, Vaccaro noted that Bedford has its own road problems, citing runoff as an issue, and noted the importance of good drainage. He also explained that Bedford has ways of dealing with drainage such as catch basins and cross pipes. CKWIC could also look at pipes, Vaccaro explained.
Henriette Suhr, who owns the Rocky Hills estate off of Old Roaring Brook, praised the town for its consideration, saying that she feels the issue is being approaced now “in the proper way."
Some residents voiced concerns about drainage measures. One question was whether or not better drainage would mean widening the road, and thus potential making it more attractive for speeding. The other concern was about vehicle damage from going into a deep ditch.
Dialogue during the meeting turned to safety concerns, as some residents voiced worries of speeding teenagers and large trucks as posing safety hazards on the narrow road.
On hand to talk safety was New Castle Police Chief Charles Ferry. He told attendees that the average speeds on the road are low, with its dirt status being a factor. He could recall just two accidents on Old Roaring Brook in the past year: one involving a driver trying to avoid a deer and the other olving a driver who attempted to avoid a truck.
Ferry was also receptive to an attendees' suggest of adding signage to warn people of the road being narrow.