Good Question: Is an eagle sculpture delaying traffic on the Thruway?

September 05, 2017 06:15 AM

Several viewers asked Pat Taney if a very large bird sculpture is causing a slowdown.

You may have seen it while heading eastbound on the NYS Thruway.  A giant sculpture of an eagle. It's right off the highway, just after the Waterloo exit, on the site of the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. That's one of several hundred National Refuge Centers across the country.

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The biggest draw at the refuge is by far, the soaring bald eagle. It did not take us long to see several soaring in the sky when our crew visited the site.

"One of the questions we get most often at the visitor's center is where can I go to see the eagles," said Andrea Van Beusichem, who works at the refuge. 

Taney: Well you can see the eagle right off the Thruway!

Van Beusichem: Yes! Since last October, you can see a great big bald eagle sculpture right off the NYS Thruway.

Kate Turri, from Pittsford, discovered it on a recent trip eastbound. "All of a sudden the car in front of us came to a dead stop," she said.

Turri said it nearly caused a chain reaction crash and then a traffic jam. “We were stuck in dead traffic for about 20 minutes just crawling around."

Drivers were slowing down, to a crawl, to see the sculpture!

"As soon as we passed it, traffic carried on as normal," Turri said.

The sculpture, which was done by Trumansburg artist James Seaman, was commissioned in 2016 to mark 40 years since the real bald eagle was re-introduced to Montezuma. The re-introduction helped to boost the bald eagle population in the 1960's, a time when bald eagle numbers nationwide had been dwindling.

"This is a huge conservation success story so we like to draw attention to that," Van Beusichem said.

But is the sculpture drawing too much attention? Maybe, but the original plan was different.

"We knew the sculpture was going to grab attention so the original plan for this area was to work with the NYS Thruway Authority to build a pull off along the Thruway, and then an observation area. That would have allowed people to safely pull off and take photos." 

Taney: That part of the funding was cut? 

Van Beusichem: Yes. The Thruway funding was cut.

But the sculpture funding remained.

Back to Turri, who says the eagle almost caused her to crash - she isn't against the sculpture. 

"It is beautiful and definitely a huge representation of the beautiful area it sits in. This is not something that needs to be gone but maybe moved from that location," Turri said.

There are no plans to do that, but according to Montezuma officials, the Thruway is not the place to see their wildlife refuge.

"No. We really want people to be safe and we want them to travel at a safe speed. Please come in and visit us. Take our wildlife drive and see the bald eagle statue up close and hopefully see some real bald eagles as well!" Van Beusichem said.

We checked with NYS Police. They have no reports of increased accidents on that part of the Thruway. The number of visitors to Montezuma has increased since the sculpture was erected.

We also asked how much public money was used to pay for the sculpture and we were told that information is "Not being made public." We are working on filing a request under the Freedom of Information Law to get that information for you.

If you are interested in learning more about Montezuma, visit this link.


Pat Taney

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