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DOT says no to Tri-Lakes bike lane

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Officials in the Tri-Lakes area want the state to build lanes for bicycles when state Route 86 is repaved this spring between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

The 8-mile stretch of the highway is one of the most heavily traveled roads in the North Country.
It's also popular among cyclists, both athletes and commuters.

But as Chris Morris reports, the state Department of Transportation says there are no plans to widen the road to include bike lanes.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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At a recent meeting of the North Elba town board, Code Enforcement Officer Jim Morganson called for DOT to include bike lanes when Route 86 gets repaved later this spring. “I have curiosity if you’ve gotten any feedback regarding the addition of bike lanes from here to Saranac Lake or on Old Military Road,” he said.

Morganson says he’s glad the state is finally fixing up the road, which has been neglected for years. But he’s also been “a proponent of taking it a step further,” which means including extra room for bike lanes.

The state confirmed recently that it plans to mill and repave Route 86 between the two villages. The project was originally scheduled to take place last year, but DOT had to delay it so it could repair roads and bridges damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

Town board members unanimously passed a resolution asking the DOT to put a 5-foot-wide bike lane on Route 86.

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi says lobbying by officials in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake helped convince the state to fix Route 86. He’s not certain if that same sort of lobbying will get the state to add bike lanes. “I hope it happens, but I can’t tell you for sure,” he said. “I wish I could pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, you putting bike lanes in?’ It’s not that easy.”

In fact, it sounds like DOT has no intention of widening the road to include the lanes.

DOT spokeswoman Carl Breen said in an email that additional lanes won’t be part of the upcoming project. But she did leave the door open, saying “building bike lanes could be considered as part of a more in-depth reconstruction in the future.”

Politi says the Tri-Lakes were lucky that the state opted to invest money in its highways here. DOT will also repave a stretch of road between Lake Placid and Wilmington, as well parts of state Route 30 in the towns of Brighton and Tupper Lake. “This area was probably pretty lucky in having those two roads chosen for refurbishing,” Politi said.

Politi says state officials drove along Route 86 and recognized that it was becoming a dangerous section of highway.

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