Under the piercing sun and hot weather Friday, a crew from C&S Cos. chiseled and worked on a stone entry sign at Pomeroy Street and Clinton Avenue in Cortland.
That sign, part of the Gateway Project, will be crucial to giving the first impression to guests to the city, Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said.
“For Cortland, that I-81 corridor is the front door to our community,” he said. “We don’t want Cortland to be an interchange. We want Cortland to be distinct.”
The sign will direct people toward Main Street and other parts of the city, Tobin said.
The sign is a part of Phase 1 of the project, said Nic Dovi, the superintendent of the city Department of Public Works.
Phase 1, which will cost about $850,000, includes new masonry work, crosswalks, adding bike lanes from the I-81 exit to the intersection of Pomeroy and River streets. Work on Phase 1 is nearing the end with about a month left, Dovi said.
Phase 2 of the project, to replace water mains on Clinton Avenue up to Pomeroy and River streets, was completed earlier this year.
Phase 3 of the project will include infrastructure fixes on Clinton Avenue including stormwater and gas line replacements along with new lighting. It will also add bike lanes to the street. Work on Phase 3, a $10 million effort, is expected to be completed in spring or summer 2022, Dovi said.
The total cost for the project is almost $25 million, city officials said in April 2020, said previously. The funding comes from several agencies and programs:
• The Community Development Block Grant program.
• The Environmental Facility Corp.
• The New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
• The federal Environmental Protection Agency.
• The New York Department of State.
Work began on the project in 2019. As to how to get visitors interested in going downtown from Clinton Avenue, Tobin directed questions to the Cortland County Conventions & Visitors Bureau. Meghan Lawton, the executive director of the bureau, was unavailable to comment Friday.
While work may be messy now — including closing off traffic to Clinton Avenue except for residents and customers of businesses on the road. Tobin said that once the project is done, the accessibility and look of the entryway into the city from I-81 will be much improved.
“These are the short-term pains for the long-term gains,” he said.