HAMBURG-Construction on the long-awaited and much-delayed realignment of the Route 23/94 intersection is scheduled to begin by July, 2006, according to N.J. Department of Transportation officials who visited the borough last week to field questions and provide information to borough residents and others from nearby communities. Nick Dogias, the D.O.T.'s project manager for the job, explained that the anticipated project schedule calls for design work to be finished by this December, after which the D.O.T. will spend about 18 months acquiring the necessary property before beginning work two years from now. The project is expected to be finished by July, 2007, he added. "I have right-of-way money coming in November," Dogias said, explaining that the moneywhich will offer fair-market value for the six buildings slated to be lost to the projectis from federal funding. The condemnation process involves property appraisals and negotiations with the affected property owners. If property owners do not want to sell, the state would have to go to condemnation proceedings. The project will both widen and realign turn lanes on an intersection that is both difficult and dangerous. It will also create a new municipal parking lot and a small park directly across Route 94 from the Eckerd strip mall. It's about bloody time," said Vernon resident Sue Speck. "I'm just thrilled to get those dedicated left-turn signals." The Route 23 work will begin close to the Hamburg Baptist Church and end in the area of Weather Hill Road, said Mike Miller, the D.O.T.'s consulting engineer for the project. Along Route 94, the work will begin some 250 feet west of Orchard Street and, moving toward Vernon, will conclude at the Wallkill Avenue intersection. Many in the audience remained skeptical that the work would ever be done, noting that the project was first proposed some six years ago. "I don't think it's been delayed," one D.O.T. representative said after the meeting. "The project was presented to the borough in '98, and it was just a matter of getting everything right so that it would meet with the approval of the town." One area that had to be worked out, he said, was an extension of Orchard Street across Route 94 to Main Street, which is in the current plan but was not in the original. Original schemes also failed to account for delivery trucks entering the gas station on the northwest corner of the intersection, Miller added. The plan calls for a 150-feet long median on Route 94 to prevent southbound traffic from turning left onto Main Street. That, Dogias said, will "allow a greater stacking distance beyond the (23/94 traffic) light," Dogias explained. The work will require the demolition of two homes to make way for the Orchard Street extension, and two more residential buildings between Linwood Avenue and the Eckerd mall to create the proposed 13-space parking lot. Additionally, the D.O.T. said it would not be necessary to take the mall's outer parking spaces abutting Route 94. Also, the old Hamburg Liquor Store on the southeast corner of the intersection, will be taken for the project, the D.O.T. said. "It was an ice house for the ice cream parlors on Main Street," said Dr. Marion Wood, the town historian, who added that she realizes that improvements at and near the intersection must be made. Overall, the 25-30 people in attendance felt that the work itself would cause inconveniences, but the need to correct the traffic woes at the 23/94 intersection is vital. "We've been working on this for many, many years trying to improve the intersection. It's going to take a year and it's going to tie up traffic, but it's tied up now anyway, so there's got to be an improvement," said Hamburg Mayor Paul Marino.