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Welcome to construction season

As cars wait to get through, one side of Main Street is sectioned off as construction workers connect buildings to the water main on Tuesday, May 18. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

Construction season is a real thing in the Adirondacks, and this year it is more intense than usual, especially in and around Lake Placid.

The Main Street overhaul that has been anticipated for years is now in full swing — as in the swing of backhoes and other heavy machines. Some of those are being used to dig up the road, remove the old water pipes and install new ones. But some are part of another job entirely: a complete makeover of the Hotel North Woods.

A block down the street, massive reconstruction is taking place at the Olympic Center and the Olympic Speedskating Oval, although that isn’t blocking traffic. But traffic is being obstructed by the state Department of Transportation resurfacing Route 86 between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, starting in Lake Placid’s Saranac Avenue.

On top of all that, the DOT is removing the railroad crossings in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake as it converts the railroad into a trail for biking, snowmobiling and more.

That’s a whole lot happening at once. And it’s just the big stuff. We can probably expect an increase in private construction projects, too, as the real estate market continues to boom.

Downtown Lake Placid businesses are still open, but they will almost certainly take a financial hit this year and next as shoppers avoid the big dig on Main Street. It’s a good thing they did so well this past year amid the pandemic tourism boom, even without our regular Canadian visitors.

As we talked to business people and other locals downtown, the prevailing opinion was that this disruption is just something we have to endure. It is bringing needed maintenance as well as some notable improvements, and there is no easy way to get it all done.

The construction on the Hotel North Woods, Olympic Center, Route 86 and railroad tracks will end within the coming weeks and months, but the Main Street rebuild will be with us all through next summer and fall, too. In addition to new water lines, it includes replacing the storm drain system, installing new catch basins to lessen the amount of road salt and other pollutants that flow into Mirror Lake, rebuilding sidewalk, pedestrian crosswalks and parking areas, and more.

Speaking of parking, one big change we saw already is the removal of a retaining wall across from NBT Bank, in front of what was once the Church of the Nazarene, where the Adirondack Museum once planned to build a fancy second location. The village of Lake Placid bought that lot from the museum after it failed in trying to force a sale through eminent domain. Now the lot is being graded to expand parking from the village lots next door. The ramp to the upper lot will be moved over.

We were expecting the work to be done in sections, but this week the entire non-lake side of Main Street was ripped up from the Hotel North Woods to Saranac Avenue. Traffic was moving slowly, with occasional complete stops of up to 15 minutes to make way for heavy machinery. Cars sometimes have to edge up onto curbs to avoid holes in the road. We didn’t see many pedestrians. Granted, it was a Tuesday in May, but the usually slow April was slamming this year, so we no longer know what to expect.

This is a necessary trial. Lake Placid has been blessed with prosperity beyond most other North Country communities, and most people and businesses here can endure this.

In the meantime, please do what you can to support our local businesses down among the pylons.