Forest Home is popular with pedestrians, runners, and cyclists. It is also a convenient route to and from the Cornell campus. But the roads were never designed to handle much traffic. As Liese Bronfenbrenner wrote in 1974, “The community may be divided over the way to deal with these problems, but is united in its desire to save Forest Home from the destructive effects of the heavy through traffic.”
As early as 1909, residents petitioned to have the state road avoid the center of the hamlet, but to no avail.
In 1970, a majority of the residents approved a resolution that both bridges should be closed permanently to reduce the heavy through traffic in the village. Many of them changed their minds after the Downstream Bridge was closed to traffic for a year while being rebuilt.
In 1998, following lobbying by members of FHIA, the Town of Ithaca imposed a weight limit for vehicles passing through Forest Home.
Sharp bends and single-lane bridges
The single-lane bridges limit the traffic that can get through Forest Home, but every year some heavy vehicles ignore the signs, follow their GPS maps, and get stuck at the sharp bends on Forest Home Drive and the bottom of Judd Falls Road.
Traffic over the single-lane bridges follows informal conventions, which are fascintating to watch. Groups of two to five vehicles alternate on the bridges. The groups grow larger in busy periods. Every September, there is period of disarray while newcomers to Cornell learn the conventions.
In 2005, FHIA began a traffic calming initiative. The speed bumps and lights at the edge of Forest Home are one of the results of this initiative.
As part of the initiative, FHIA commissioned a study by consultants. They reported in 2007. The report provided a comprehensive overview of traffic and the options for the neighborhood. The report was submitted to the Town of Ithaca and construction of the entrance features took place in 2010.
Surveys in 2005 and 2011 compared traffic speeds before and after the work. They show that the project did indeed reduce traffic speeds. Much of the data and many of the recommendations are still relevant today.
More information about the traffic calming study is available from a 2018 archive.