ALBANY, N.Y. — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the awarding of a contract to reconstruct and rehabilitate Whiteface Mountain Veterans’ Memorial Highway in the Town of Wilmington, Essex County. Rifenburg Construction Inc., of Albany submitted the winning Best Value proposal, which determines the winning bid by weighing cost against additional factors that include ability to accelerate the project schedule and past State experience with the company. Rifenburg Construction’s bid had the lowest proposed cost at just less than $11.2 million. State funding is coming from NY Works, Governor Cuomo’s signature infrastructure program that has been rebuilding roads, bridges, and parks across the state.
“The Whiteface Mountain Veterans’ Memorial Highway is a vital asset for the North Country and New York, drawing visitors from around the globe to enjoy unparalleled views from the High Peaks,” Governor Cuomo said. “But for too long Albany ignored the fact that this highway had fallen into disrepair. By awarding this contract just six months after our administration committed to funding the necessary repairs, we are moving quickly to restore one of New York’s most scenic roadways and helping to draw more tourists to experience the best of the Adirondacks.”
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said, “Governor Cuomo recognizes the importance of Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway to the Adirondack community. It is a major tourist attraction in the Adirondacks, and the project to reconstruct this scenic gem will contribute to boosting the North Country’s economy. Additionally, this contract award demonstrates fiscal responsibility, as the Department of Transportation seeks to get the best value for the taxpayers in reconstructing this highway.”
The highway improvement project will involve the full, eight-mile length of Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, also known as NY State Route 431, from Route 86 to the top of the mountain. Construction activity will begin immediately, with the establishment of a field office and the ordering of materials. The actual field work is expected to begin later this spring, depending on the weather. Work is expected to continue through 2014 and into 2015, however, the Best Value proposal submitted by Rifenburg calls for completing the project up to six months before the required December 2015 end date.
Senator Betty Little said, “For many years, the Whiteface Mountain Veterans’ Memorial Highway deteriorated causing not only inconvenient but potentially unsafe travel for motorists and cyclists seeking to visit this very special place in the North Country. I join many local elected officials and other community leaders in welcoming the start of the long-needed repairs to ensure this scenic highway lives up to all its name embodies. For a region so reliant on tourism, this highway should be the best it can be to ensure the best possible first impression that will encourage visitors to return again and again.”
Assembly Member Dan Stec said, “I’m pleased and impressed at the speed with which this project has moved forward, from project funding, to design, and now six months later we are ready for construction. This project is wonderful for Whiteface, both as a tourist attraction and a valuable piece of Adirondack history.”
Jay Town Supervisor and Chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors Randy Douglas said, “I want to thank Governor Cuomo for taking quick action to make this project a reality. This highway is important to the North County, bringing tourists and outdoor enthusiasts to the High Peaks to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. We look forward to the restoration of this highway’s original beauty, which will be a fitting tribute to the veterans it is named for.”
Wilmington Town Supervisor Randy Preston said, “We’re very excited the work is underway. It’s been a long time coming. We are very thankful that Governor Cuomo recognizes the importance of this highway, not just for the town of Wilmington, but also for the whole region. It’s also important to note that this highway is dedicated to our veterans, which makes this project even more special.”
Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council said, “This highway is a key asset for tourism in the Adirondacks, providing a unique opportunity for thousands of visitors each year to see and experience the Adirondacks in a special way. That’s why the Regional Economic Development Council identified the reconstruction of this road as a high priority for the area economy, and we thank Governor Cuomo for once again responding to our needs and our regional agenda, as well as Senator Little and Assemblyman Stec for their strong partnership. When complete, this highway will be able to continue to support the Adirondack economy for decades to come. Onward and upward!”
Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University and Co-Chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council said, “The investments being made in the North Country through projects like the Veterans’ Memorial Highway at Whiteface are buoying the economic outlook in tourism and other sectors that benefit from elevating global recognition of our region as one of the special places on the planet to visit, live, work and study. Public access via the highway to partake of the splendor and vastness of the Adirondack Park, as well to share our commitment to honor our nations Veterans, will be an unparalleled experience for visitors and residents alike.”
Ted Blazer, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, said, “From the day the Governor drove up the Highway he understood its significance to the Town of Wilmington and the entire region. ORDA would like to thank him for his continued support and dedication in making this project come to fruition. Though his dedication visitors of all ages and abilities will be able to continue to summit this High Peak and enjoy the breathtaking views that surround the region.”
Opened in 1935, the highway attracts more than 28,000 vehicles per year, as well as numerous cyclists and hikers. The highway itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The project will involve reconstruction and rehabilitation of the driving surface to make for a smoother ride. Culverts will be repaired or replaced to improve drainage. The project will also involve the restoration of many of the highway’s historic elements put into place under the road’s original design, such as restoring the 10-foot wide travel lanes, and 2-foot paved shoulders, as well as fixing rock walls and re-setting the quarry stone barrier stones along the road. Work will also include improving the septic system that services the castle at the summit, and replacing the water line that supplies water to that building.