KENT — The Nichols Street causeway over the West Branch Reservoir in Kent needs to be redone, Supervisor William Tulipane says, because the roadway is sagging and is too narrow for traffic.

(Original publication: January 24, 2004)

Nichols Street in Kent winds from Route 52 over to Gipsy Trail Road, providing access between the east and west sides of town and a shortcut to the county's Veterans Memorial Park.

Given the road's popularity, Supervisor William Tulipane said, a make-over is needed for its causeway. With its sinking sides and tilting guardrails, the causeway traverses the West Branch Reservoir and is posing a hazard for drivers and emergency vehicles, he said.

"It's sagging on the sides and it's too narrow," Tulipane said.

Oncoming vehicles can't safely pass each other along the stretch, Tulipane and residents said.

"We look and wait and see if someone's coming before heading across," said Wilma Baker, who has lived on Nichols Street near the causeway since 1960. "There are safe places to pass. But if you get over too far, you get stuck."

Tulipane said he would like to see the section of roadway widened enough to allow free-flowing, two-way traffic. A one-time dirt road, the causeway also needs its sides shored up, possibly with large pieces of rock like the causeway that carries Stoneleigh Avenue over the Croton Falls Reservoir in Carmel.

The project's cost and source of funding is still unknown. Tulipane said funding could come from money the county received for signing a 1997 watershed agreement, or federal or state highway funds. Both Tulipane and county Highway Commissioner Harold Gary said they would meet soon to discuss the work.

"I'm going to set up an appointment. We'll get together and see what he has to say," Gary said.

The West Branch Reservoir is part of a system that supplies drinking water to New York City, most of Westchester and part of Putnam counties. Putnam received $30 million for signing the watershed agreement, which grew to about $39 million with interest.

The money can be spent for water-quality improvement projects and is subject to approval by the city. The county has spent much of the money, most recently acquiring the 374-acre Country Club at Lake MacGregor and former Mahopac Airport for $11.35 million. Putnam used $6.35 million in watershed-protection funds toward the purchase price and borrowed the remaining $5 million from the watershed account.

Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the city's Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency would review any plans for the causeway work. The DEP oversees the reservoirs.

"This type of work happens quite often. We have a lot of reservoirs and obviously there's a lot of bridges and causeways going over them," Michaels said. "It's a pretty routine, set process."

The scenic road, Tulipane said, is a draw for anglers. It is also the only other way across the sprawling reservoir if the Route 301 causeway to the south becomes closed to traffic, he said.

"We have to see what's possible because there is no other option," Tulipane said.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005