Jaime Studd - Work on the New York State Department of Transportation’s $5.5 million construction project in Vail Mills, shown last week, is nearing completion. The deadline is now July 31.
By JAIME STUDD
For the Express
VAIL MILLS — For more than a year, the New York State Department of Transportation’s massive construction project in this Fulton County hamlet has tested the patience of motorists and local business owners alike. The end, however, may finally be in sight.
With the final paving of the roads that lead into and out of Vail Mills, W.M. Shultz Construction, Inc., is ready to put the finishing touches on the $5.5 million project that included the construction of a brand new Kennyetto Creek Bridge and the installation of a traffic circle at the intersection of routes 30 and 29.
“Right now, they’re working on some guardrails and some bridge guardrails. There is some fencing that needs to be completed and there’s some miscellaneous landscaping,” said DOT Region 3 Spokesman Jim Piccola. “Then they have what we call a punch list of a variety of different little things that just need to be touched up and what have you.”
Piccola said most of the major work at the site has been completed.
“There’s a punch list of things that they’ll put together and they’ll go down through and make sure the contractor, if he was supposed to maybe do something here, he followed through with it,” said Piccola.
Though originally set to be completed by June 30, Piccola expressed confidence that the project in its entirety will wrap up by the end of July.
The delay was previously attributed to this spring’s substantial rainfall, which made controlling the waters of the Kennyetto Creek more difficult than had been anticipated and caused Schultz to fall slightly behind schedule.
Piccola said the company applied for an extension, which was granted.
“A lot of times if a contractor has a good reason for why he was late, they won’t penalize them,” said Piccola. “Sometimes things are just totally out of his control.”
Upon completion of the entire project, the traffic signal that is currently blinking at the intersection of County Highway 155 and Route 30 is scheduled to revert to full, three-color operation. Piccola said preparation for that transition will likely occur some time within the next week or two, with DOT signs warning drivers of the impending change.
“I’m thinking within the next week, week and half, you’ll see something like that, so people can get used to it and know that it’s coming,” said Piccola.
For local businesses, the year has been a long one and the end cannot come soon enough.
Last summer, Coralie Embree, whose husband owns Embree’s Vail Mills Wines and Liquors, said the construction was causing a noticeable impact on her family’s business, and that she was not entirely sold on the idea of a roundabout at that intersection.
On Thursday, she expressed a fairly similar sentiment.
“Construction has definitely affected the business,” said Embree. “During the construction there were times when our parking lot was blocked and you couldn’t get in.
“I still have some reservations about it (the roundabout.) Part of the problem is people aren’t used to it,” she added. “It’s been in quite a while, but people who aren’t expecting it to be there, have had some confusion, but I haven’t seen any major accidents lately.”
Still, as construction nears completion, Embree conceded that traffic seems to be flowing nicely through the area with the improvements and she’s open to the possibility that the new traffic pattern may ease her customer’s path to the store.
“It’s too soon to know whether it will affect business,” said Embree, “but, things seem to be flowing better, so, we’ll see how it turns out.”
Across the street from Embree, Tats by Zapp Manager Spike Paull also reflected on what he said has been a difficult year as far as business is concerned.
“Well, they have been a real pain,” said Paull. “Business-wise, it’s probably slowed us down quite a bit, just because traffic was so bad, people didn’t want to even drive by this way.
“There were points where you couldn’t even pull into our parking lot for days at a time,” he added.
In fact, Paull said the project is still negatively affecting his business, and he is eager to see it come to an end.
“It’s supposed to be our busiest time of year and it’s not,” said Paull. “Usually by this point in the summer, we’re jam-packed. It’s been steady this past month or so, but not how it usually is during the summertime for us.”