October 27, 2021

Feb. 4 hearing planned for changes on Otter Creek Place

Restrictions weighed

Otter Creek Place

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

A car turns onto Otter Creek Place from Groton Avenue in Cortland January 2020.

Otter Creek Place: To some Cortland residents, it’s a nameless shortcut between Groton Avenue and Broadway, or vice versa — a way of bypassing the traffic light at Townley and Groton avenues.

To many SUNY Cortland students, it’s the back entrance to campus.

To some of the people who live on it, it’s a quiet street menaced by speeders who drive on the sidewalk.

After March 1, this quiet street may get even quieter and closed to all but local traffic, if the city Common Council passes a resolution at its Feb. 4 meeting to change the traffic pattern for the street, following a public hearing on the subject prior to the meeting.

The proposal would:

  • Restrict traffic to local and emergency vehicles, as well as pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Place a solar-powered, blinking red “do not enter sign” on the Groton Avenue end.
  • Place “do not turn” signs on Groton Avenue near Otter Creek Place.
  • Place a “local traffic only” sign on the Broadway end.

Safety, especially for pedestrians and cyclists, was the main consideration behind the proposal, said city Department of Public Works Commissioner Christopher Bistocchi, who outlined the recommendations Tuesday night.

“It will no longer be a cut-across from Groton to Broadway,” he said.

Otter Creek Place presents several engineering problems, which have led to safety issues, Bistocchi said.

The road has never been wide enough for two lanes. To make the street two lanes, the city would have to eliminate the sidewalk and front steps and build the street right up to the front of the houses near Groton Avenue — an option that was clearly not acceptable, he said.

Furthermore, the corner at Groton Avenue, which meets Otter Creek Place at a sharp angle, doesn’t provide enough room to accommodate a vehicle stopped at the end of Otter Creek Place and another vehicle trying to turn into it at the same time.

These issues came up in 2017 when his department replaced the bridge on Groton Avenue near Otter Creek Place. At the time, his department gained approval from the city public works and public safety commission as well as the state Department of Transportation to block access from Groton Avenue and make the road local access only, Bistocchi said.

But while the city had the approval, the changes were never implemented. Mayor Brian Tobin said Tuesday he couldn’t remember why not.

They came to the forefront, however, at an Aug. 20 Common Council meeting, when Angela Gellatly, who lives at 4 Otter Creek Place, complained about cars driving on her sidewalk and speeding down the street. In response, the Cortland Police Department set up an electronic monitor on Otter Creek Place to check the number and speed of cars.

“In a city the size of Cortland, it’s good to see that when somebody has a concern and brings it forward, that things get done,” Tobin said.

Aldermen spoke favorably of the proposal Tuesday night.

Alderman Bruce Tytler (D- 3rd Ward), who represents the area that includes Otter Creek Place, said he had been soliciting opinions from people on that street and in the city about possible changes. Those suggestions didn’t always agree, he said.

“I think no matter how I go on this, I think somebody’s going to be upset with me,” he said.

But action must be taken, he said, and he would support the proposal Bistocchi outlined.

“It is a safety issue, there’s no doubt about that,” Tytler said.