GREENPORT — The state Department of Transportation opened the roundabout at the intersection of Routes 9G and 23 late Tuesday morning after more than two months of work.
Traffic first flowed through the new $4.5 million roundabout near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge at about 10:40 a.m. Tuesday. DOT crews have been working to build the traffic circle since early August in the town of Greenport.
“The roundabout will reduce conflict points and eliminate crossing maneuvers at the intersection of Routes 9G and 23 and the approach to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge,” according to the statement from the DOT. “A refuge lane has also been added for motorists turning left from Route 23B to eastbound Route 23.”
Travel lanes between the roundabout and the intersection were reduced from two lanes to one to decrease operating speeds approaching both intersections and to enhance safety, according to the DOT.
The roundabout project consists of a 25-space parking area at the east side of the intersection, according to the DOT. Sidewalks from the parking lot will lead visitors to the northern entrance to the Olana State Historic Site and over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.
“This is certainly a big step forward,” said Olana Partnership President Sean Sawyer. “I have a feeling this will greatly enhance safety for pedestrians and DOT tells us this will be safer for vehicle traffic as well. So, we see this as a positive step.”
The traffic circle project is part of the larger $14.6 million Skywalk project connecting the two historic sites, which involves renovating the Rip Van Winkle Bridge’s sidewalks. The updated sidewalks will make the scenery more visible for tourists walking across the bridge to visit either historic site — including three scenic viewpoints, each 50 feet long by 10 feet wide.
“When we first started talking about the Hudson River Skywalk as a connection between the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and the Olana State Historic Site, the connection to Olana was always the big question mark,” Thomas Cole State Historic Site Executive Director Betsy Jacks said. “How could we get pedestrians across those busy roads? Now, the whole area, including both sides of the bridge, has been transformed into a destination for enjoyment of the landscape and we are thrilled that the DOT and the state leaped into action to make it happen.”
DOT crews are finished working on the roundabout this year, according to the department, but some landscaping and finishing work on the project will be completed next spring.
“The intersection looks a lot different than it did,” Sawyer said. “I think this will be something people value about that intersection.”
The roundabout project is the third phase of a tourism initiative Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during this year’s State of the State address. Earlier this year, the governor announced the creation of the Hudson River Skywalk Region with $225,000 in Market New York funds awarded to the Thomas Cole site in the 2017 Consolidated Funding Application through the Capital District Regional Economic Development Council, according to the DOT.
“There is still a bit of work that needs to be done for the Skywalk project,” Sawyer said. “But I walked across the bridge the other day and it’s a beautiful sight. I hope more people start to do it, too.”