December 2, 2021

Work on Route 281 stalls out

Project to widen roadway from Fisher Avenue to Interstate 81 on hold

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Vehicles pass one another Wednesday on Route 281 in Cortland just north of Fisher Avenue. The state Department of Transportation has indefinitely delayed a plan to widen 2 miles of the road between Fisher Avenue and the Exit 12 on-ramp to Interstate 81.

The state Department of Transportation has no plan for the foreseeable future to widen the stretch of Route 281 form Fisher Avenue in Cortland to the Interstate 81 interchange, according to a department official.

“There is no plan to initiate the third phase at this point,” said Curtis Jetter, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

The section of street was one of three phases that were part of a DOT project to widen Route 281 that began in 2008.

• Phase I (2008-2009): Widened Route 281 between Lime Hollow and Luker roads in Cortlandville.
• Phase II (2015-2017): Widened 281 from Luker Road to Fisher Avenue.
• Phase III (Still to be determined): Widens the last 2 miles of 281 from Fisher Avenue to Interstate 81’s Exit 12 in Homer.

Cortlandville Town Supervisor Richard Tupper said the project must continue.

“It needs to be done, you can’t stop it,” he said Thursday. “At this point, you’re just compounding the safety issue if you don’t.”

The two sections that were done before have “moved traffic significantly faster” and more safely, Tupper said. When drivers have to make a left-hand turn in the unfinished section, they hold up traffic because it’s only one lane.

He’s also concerned that at some point a driver may assume they can go around the person trying to make a left and end up in the ditch instead.

“The state needs to step up,” he said. “They spend most of time on interstate and thruway, but roads like this really become very important.”

However, not everyone has supported the project, including the Cortland Country Club. Part of the club’s golf course runs along Route 281.

To widen it, trees from the course would need to be cut down. It’s a safety concern, said club President Ken Morey, because noting the trees are the buffer between golfers and motorists.

“There will be a lot of stray balls that go that way,” Morey said.

Widening the road would also mean Morey would need to look at redesigning the hole in that area or buying more land and redesigning a new course altogether.

“Which you know is pretty extravagant and expensive,” he said.

Morey said he calls the DOT every year to check and see if work is scheduled for the road and has been told that nothing is set on the agenda yet.

“They told us the same thing with Phase II and then they came out of nowhere and did Phase II,” he said. “You just never know when it will happen. I don’t know what the priority level is with them.”

However, if the DOT does plan to continue the project Morey said he’s sure the DOT will try to work with them.

“We know that they’re not trying to put anyone out business — they’re just trying to keep traffic flowing,” he said.