FOREST HOME, N.Y.—The Town of Ithaca’s Town Board was preparing to vote on a resolution that would have ended the potential of Cornell University realigning a busy intersection near the university’s northern campus, and the neighborhood of Forest Home.
But close to 20 residents of Forest Home addressed the board on Monday, urging them to keep seeking for the intersection of Cradit Farm Drive and Pleasant Grove Road to be restructured to divert traffic away from their neighborhood. Their plea proved persuasive. Ithaca’s Town Board refrained from making a vote on the resolution, but it appears that if residents of Forest Home want to see a change, they will need to convince the Tompkins County government.
Residents of the small, idyllic Forest Home neighborhood, which is situated along a portion of Fall Creek and wedged into Cornell University’s campus, say that their narrow streets and one-lane bridges have become clogged with more and more traffic. This is, in part, due to the added number of cars on the road that neighborhood residents attribute to the massive expansion of Cornell’s Northern Campus in recent years.
Neighborhood residents complained that drivers trying to get to the university’s East and North campuses have found Forest Home to be a useful cut through — whether it’s convenient or not. At peak commuting times, drivers are stuck in lines of traffic as they take turns crossing Forest Home’s one lane bridges. The situation has led Forest Home residents to coin the term “bridge rage.”
The City of Ithaca’s Attorney, Ari Lavine, a Forest Home resident, told Ithaca’s Town Board, “For anyone who’s ever tried biking through Forest Home with their kids. It’s actually kind of scary, and it shouldn’t be.”
Lavine asked that the board to “find a way to divert the traffic which was a settled expectation” when Cornell pursued expanding its Northern campus.
What originally prompted the Town of Ithaca to consider a resolution that would free Cornell from having to redo the Cradit Farm Drive and Pleasant Grove Road intersection was a decision from the Tompkins County Highway Department. After reviewing traffic counts, the county highway department determined that the “best traffic flow through the intersection exists in its present form. The County Highway [Department] does not believe that any reconfiguration of the intersection is in the best interest of the traveling public.”
According to the resolution that the board chose not to move, when Cornell began pursuing its North Campus Residential Expansion project, the university came to agree with the county and the Town of Ithaca on a desire to divert traffic onto its campus — a point which was emphasized by Forest Home residents on Monday.
To draw traffic away from passing through the neighborhood, it was thought the university would realign the Cradit Farm Drive and Pleasant Grove Road intersection. However, Ithaca Town Supervisor Rod Howe said on Monday that the original agreement between Cornell, the county, and the town did not marry the university to completing a specific infrastructure project at the intersection, despite the expectation existing among Forest Home residents that the intersection would be realigned.
Howe said the memorandum of understanding that the university signed committed Cornell to explore options for changing the intersection. Moreover, the Town of Ithaca’s Attorney, Susan Brock, said that since Pleasant Grove is a county road, any change to the intersection will require the county’s approval.
For a community with few sidewalks to speak of, the denizens of Forest Home say that the perceived increase in traffic levels and inadequate infrastructure to handle it has made their neighborhood more dangerous.
Forest Home resident Robin Blakely-Armitage told the board on Monday, “This community cannot handle that type of volume and the safety risks that are involved.”
Blakely-Armitage said, “Anything that Cornell can do and has agreed to do in the past about channeling all the traffic that literally is mostly coming for Cornell employment should be protecting the safety of the residents, including students.”
Supervisor Howe said that the Town Board would contact officials in the county government to relay what Forest Home residents had expressed to the board.
Town Board member Rich DePaolo addressed the Forest Home residents at Monday’s meeting saying, “To the extent that you all have exhibited a high level of organization and political influence yourselves, I would encourage you to go to the county and make your voices heard and not rely solely on town government to do your speaking for you.”