$8.6 million modernization project in Village of Canisteo gets started: What to know

Neal Simon
The Evening Tribune

There's a new sign of the times in Canisteo.

The community famous for its massive “Living Sign” where hundreds of pine trees spell out C-A-N-I-S-T-E-O is set for an $8.6 million project that will modernize state routes 36 and 248 in the Steuben County village.

The overhaul includes roadway resurfacing, new sidewalks, the creation of dedicated turning lanes and other improvements crafted to enhance safety and boost travel on two critical roads connecting Canisteo to the City of Hornell and the entire Southern Tier Region.

Funding for the project comes from the New York State Department of Transportation.

The plans are also designed to improve the visual appeal of the village and build on the tourism draw of the "Living Sign," which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

The project includes new lighting and updates to a major village gathering area: the downtown park.

Crews remove old trees from the parking lot in the center of downtown Canisteo on Monday. Village Mayor Monica Recktenwald said the entire area will see a "dramatic change" as the result of an $8.6 million New York State Department of Transportation modernization project.

Project designed to make Village of Canisteo more accessible

Making downtown Canisteo more attractive to pedestrians is a chief goal of the redesign.

“This project is more than just an investment in roads and sidewalks in the Village of Canisteo — it is fundamentally helping to grow and promote a healthy and vibrant community by making it more walkable, bikeable and accessible,” DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said in a March 18 announcement of the start of construction.

The improvements slated for the village include:

  • Replacement of existing sidewalks and the addition of 1,000 feet of new sidewalk along state Route 36
  • New rapid flashing beacons along state Route 36 and Maple Street to improve pedestrian safety
  • Modern, acorn-style streetlights in front of businesses along state Route 36
  • Installation of dedicated left-turn lanes along state Route 36 to reduce congestion and improve the flow of traffic
  • New parking lot, benches, picnic tables and other enhancements to the village’s downtown park

Officials said there are no plans for detours. Flaggers will be utilized to direct traffic through the work zone.

Roads and sidewalks will be open to traffic during winter months when construction is inactive and local businesses will remain accessible throughout the duration of the project, which is expected to wrap up by Fall 2023.

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Trees removed at downtown parking area

The village was already an active construction scene Monday. Workers in the parking lot in the center of downtown began removing trees that have caused some damage underneath the lot.

When the updated landscape is completed, it will include new trees that don't damage the underground, a sidewalk, new lighting and seating, Canisteo Village Mayor Monica Recktenwald said.

Recktenwald expects the most visible improvements to be apparent at the park.

"Our monuments, which were located in different areas of the park downtown, are all being moved into a central area near the gazebo," she explained Monday.

Work begins Monday in downtown Canisteo on an $8.6 million project that will add new pavement, sidewalks, turning lanes and lighting in the village. Officials say the endeavor will enhance safety, promote tourism and improve the visual appeal of a community known for its history "Living Sign."

Project was outlined at 2020 public meetings

The DOT detailed the scope and purpose of the village project at a pair of public sessions in August 2020. Recktenwald said those meetings were valuable because they allowed community members and downtown business owners to review the plans, offer insights and express concerns.

“I appreciate how the local state DOT office made themselves available to the residents who reached out with any concerns and was transparent with this long-awaited project,” Recktenwald said in the March 18 announcement. “On behalf of the Village Board, I would like to extend my utmost gratitude to the folks from the state Department of Transportation who developed the plans for this project that will not only enhance our safety but improve the traffic flow through our village.”

The project price tag has risen significantly since 2020, when the estimated cost was about $5 million. The DOT based that projection on conditions at that time.

“Unfortunately, DOT is subject to the same volatility in prices for materials and labor that have been seen across the economy since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in higher overall costs for the project,” said DOT Public Information Officer Joe Leathersich.

Project complements 'Southern Tier Soaring' regional plan

Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler called Routes 36 and 248 "key travel arteries" for both local residents and visitors.

“Steuben County is most appreciative of New York state’s investment in our western region, particularly the Village of Canisteo," Wheeler added.

State officials said the Canisteo project complements “Southern Tier Soaring” — a regional strategy to revitalize communities and spur economic growth.

Sen. Tom O'Mara said the Canisteo project "builds on the success of recent beautification projects in the villages of Watkins Glen and Montour Falls."

The Village of Canisteo has a population of about 2,200, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Its origin dates to the late 18th century, making it one of Steuben County's oldest communities.

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