Construction will begin this fall on a $27 million project to upgrade the New York State Fair's Orange lot, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
The first phase of the project will pave the entire 65-acre lot and add lines for parking spaces. The improvements are expected to expand the capacity of the lot to hold up to 7,500 vehicles.
Additional upgrades will be made to the lot's infrastructure, including the installation of 114 new LED lights, new drainage to prevent flooding and a redesigned intersection from exit 7 off Interstate 690. A new interchange will be created to connect the west end of the Orange to I-690 westbound.
The improvements seek to address the criticisms of the Orange lot, which also serves as the primary parking venue for the nearby Lakeview Amphitheater. Drainage has been an issue, especially after heavy rainfall, and the excess water can reduce the lot's capacity.
The existing lot isn't paved, which can create messy conditions for those using it to attend concerts or the fair. And the lot doesn't have permanent access to I-690 — a temporary exit is open during the fair — which causes traffic flow problems after events.
The first wave of the Orange lot construction project is expected to be completed before the 2018 fair.
"For a century, the fairgrounds went virtually unchanged, and in just a few short years, New York has completely upgraded and transformed this historic attraction into a world-class, multi-use operation," Cuomo said in a statement.
He added, "Transforming the Orange lot is critical in our efforts to complete the fair's modernization, and will provide much-needed additional capacity as we continue to attract more and more visitors to the grounds and to central New York as a whole."
For the second phase of the project, the state plans to provide greater access between the Orange lot and nearby highways. One goal of the improvements is to eliminate the temporary traffic signal that is used on I-690 during the fair's run.
This phase will aim to redesign the on- and off-ramps from the Route 695 southbound interchange and install a bridge to allow vehicles to gain direct access to Interstate 690 east from the Orange lot.
A new pedestrian bridge from the west end of the Orange lot to the fairgrounds is also planned.
The Orange lot improvements aren't the only project in the works ahead of the 2018 fair. Cuomo announced earlier this year that a new $50 million expo center will be built on the fairgrounds. The facility will be used during the fair and for year-round events.
The state has invested more than $120 million in the fairgrounds over the last few years. The 2016 fair, which was a 12-day event, broke the all-time attendance record with 1,117,630 visitors.
This year, the fair expanded to a 13-day event and drew 1,161,912 attendees to set a new all-time attendance mark.
"The fair has grown by nearly 25 percent in two years and our non-fair business is on the verge of great growth with the construction of the new expo center," said Troy Waffner, the fair's acting director. "The governor's investments have provided an opportunity for growth that we are taking advantage of, and which is benefiting the entire region."