With Rockland County Highway Department officials on hand, one of the construction foremen gave instructions to the road crews at about 4:30 pm on Wednesday.
“Shut it down,” he directed. “Don’t let anybody go west.”
Upon hearing those words, construction crews closed the section of New Hempstead Road between North Main Street and the Demarest Kill Culvert and opened the detour route. Drivers on New Hempstead Road and those seeking to get onto New Hempstead Road were directed into the detour route that winds through the Chase Bank parking lot.
The officials’ initial reaction was positive.
“Actually it seems to be moving along,” said County Highway Department Superintendent Charles “Skip” Vezzetti. “Of course it’s rush hour. Any problems we see we can address over the next few days. We can adjust the timing of the (traffic) light.”
A new temporary traffic signal was activated on North Main Street by the Chase Bank lot to control traffic flow in and out of the detour route. Once the detour was effective, the traffic light at the intersection of North Main Street and New Hempstead Road was “bagged” or covered and taken out of service.
Joe Pyzowski, Highway Department capital projects manager, said the work on the culvert, which involves dismantling it and constructing a new bridge, and straightening out the “S” curve in the road are the two most complex parts of the $28.5 million project. He said preliminary work on the culvert will be done on Thursday and Friday.
Crews worked throughout the day on Wednesday preparing the detour route. They painted traffic lane lines and pavement markings, covered over unneeded traffic markings, installed detour signs, tested the traffic signal and moved barricades into place.
The new detour route has one lane for traffic exiting North Main Street to enter the bank parking lot and exit onto New Hempstead Road just opposite the exit for the county office building parking lot. There is a gap in the barricades lining the detour route so vehicles can exit and get into the parking lot behind the Sain Office Building. Cars leaving the Sain parking lot have a separate exit onto New Hempstead Road.
Traffic heading toward North Main Street leaves just before the Demarest Kill Culvert and feeds into two lanes, separately designated for left and right turns.
There is more work to be done on the detour.
“Some more signs have to be put in,” said Pyzowski. “After we see how things operate, we’ll probably have to tweak it and add a few more (signs.)”
A pedestrian walkway will be established behind the detour route barriers.
Advisory signs have been posted in the surrounding area warning motorists about the road closure. Other signage around New City will direct drivers to use alternates and avoid New Hempstead Road. In order to bypass expected delays, the county recommends the alternate east-west routes of Collyer Ave to the south of New Hempstead Road or Phillips Hill Road to the north.
Deputy Andy Connors does not expect parking to be a problem. Between 35 and 40 spaces in the banking parking lot were lost because of the detour but almost as many were added in the Sain parking lot. Overall fewer vehicles are expected because of summer vacations.
The closure is expected to last three months. The entire reconstruction of two miles of New Hempstead Road will take 28 months.