In 2010, workmen install a new water line under Beach Road. After an upcoming reconstruction project to the popular and famous roadway, stormwater will be drained through porous pavement and be filtered rather than be dumped into Lake George.
For half a century, a roadway at the southern end of Lake George has routed millions of people to their vacation destination, whether it’s to a paddle-wheel tour boat, the Million Dollar Beach, or to one of many curio shops.
But over these years, many millions of gallons of stormwater, carrying silt and contaminants, have flowed off this venue, Beach Road, directly into Lake George.
However, a road reconstruction project now in the planning stage is expected to halt this pollution while bringing national attention to Lake George.
Warren County and the state Department of Transportation are planning to install porous pavement that will allow precipitation to drain right through it, rather than collect in puddles or flow into storm sewer drains that now dump the dirty water into Lake George, Warren County Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said.
“Water will drop right through the porous pavement, which maintains traction much better and has far less ice build-up,” he said.
Instead, the water will be soaked up and filtered naturally in the roadbed — and several treatment devices to be installed under the pavement — leading to slow, sure purification, he added.
“Every drop of water hitting Beach Road will be filtered by three to four feet of sand and gravel before it gets the lake,” he said.
Tennyson said the innovative roadway, serving as a pilot project, will demonstrate that porous roadways are practical — and likely boost Lake George’s fame.
“With its experimental features, this project is the first of its kind in New York State and will bring Lake George attention on a national level,” he said. “There couldn’t be a better location for this.”
Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District Director Dave Wick also praised the project. He helped in lining up a $416,000 grant to pay for the environmentally-friendly pavement. He noted this week that the project has already spurred a lot of interest among municipal engineers and environmentalists.
“This is one of the most important water quality improvement projects ever in Lake George,” he said, adding that only one other heavily-traveled roadway he knows of — one in Augusta Maine — incorporates porous pavement.
Wick said demonstrations have shown that the pavement can drain up to 3 inches of rainfall in a storm event without runoff, as well as soaking up water from melting snow. It also allows up to 70 percent reduction of the use of salt, which would otherwise add to the lake pollution.
The porous pavement is to be installed between Canada St. and Fort George Road, and in a stretch east of the Million Dollar parking lot to state Rte. 9L.
The pavement is part of a $6 million-plus road reconstruction project which is to replace the entire roadbed and include new sidewalks. Advertising for bids is likely to occur in late winter, with construction to start in mid-April, Tennyson said. Because of the scope of the project, it’s likely to be completed in 18 months or so, he said, noting that state transportation officials are now reviewing the final plans.
“We’re waiting for the final nod from the state,” Tennyson said.
The porous pavement is made up of special pea-sized stones held together in asphalt and polymer binder, and doesn’t include the smaller size gravel or sand in the mix, Wick said.
The result is a pavement that resembles Rice Crispy Treats, Tennyson said. His deputy, Kevin Hajos, noted that it’s proven itself in Maine to hold up well under extremely heavy traffic, as well as saving the expense of installing storm drains.
Tennyson said that all but 5 percent of the project’s primary cost would be shouldered by the state and federal government.
He added that the businesses along the busy roadway will benefit from the reconstruction, noting the existing road and sidewalk are in poor condition.
“This project will be an incredible improvement, and it’s a showcase road for Warren County,” he said. “It’s very important to the local and county economy.”
Lynn Rosenthal of the Lake George Association, which was among the environmental groups suggesting the pavement innovation, praised the project.
“Stormwater is the number-one threat to the lakewater quality, and this project will really have substantial benefits for the southern end of the lake,” she said.
Rosenthal also noted that the road reconstruction will mean no more deep puddles will collect on Beach Road.
“In a rain storm, pedestrians won’t have to jump and make a run for it when they see vehicles approaching,” she said.
Rosenthal said the green pavement, installed in such a famous village, will publicize ways other communities in the U.S. can protect their waterways.
“This is new technology and we get a lot of visitors,” she said. “It will spread the word, which will be great for many other freshwater bodies around the nation.”