After a summer-long detour, a stretch of Pine Tree Road on Ithaca’s east hill is reopening to traffic this Thursday, according to Tompkins County Highway Department Jeffrey B. Smith. Pine Tree Road has been closed from Maple Avenue to Route 366 since June 13th.
Officials at Cornell University said this spring the project is a joint effort involving Tompkins County, the Town of Ithaca, and Cornell that will improve conditions for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. They added that “some lane closures may occur” before and after the two-month stretch when the road is completely closed. It’s reopening right on time, on August 18th — the day before Cornell’s new students and their families arrive in town.
It’s the northernmost stretch of Pine Tree Road, a major thoroughfare connecting the Cornell campus and surrounding area to Route 79 to get in and out of town, and providing access to offices, shops, businesses, and eateries in and around East Hill Plaza, including Agava Restaurant, Rite Aid pharmacy, Cornell’s East Hill Office Building, Best Western Hotel, Wings Over Ithaca, and the Wednesday afternoon Ithaca Farmers Market.
The two-month project included removing an old railroad bridge that passed over the north end of Pine Tree Road, and whose abutments provided a very narrow passage for cyclists and pedestrians alongside traffic lanes. A new pedestrian bridge was put in place last week, and a ten-foot-wide path has been paved between Maple Avenue and Dryden Road, offering a pedestrian and cycling route.
Mr. Smith says the project contractor tells him the road “will be open on Thursday with minor inconveniences after that,” such as brief lane closures. The East Ithaca Recreation Way trails, including the new pedestrian bridge, will reopen in mid to late September. The project was slated to be fully completed in early November, but Smith says they’re ahead of schedule, and should be “substantially complete” in September.