An unauthorized parking area off Exit 14 that has been an informal park-and-ride lot for about 20 years but an eyesore to some city residents will be landscaped this spring.
The strip on Union Avenue near the Yaddo entrance had been posted with no parking signs, but people continued to park there.
This week, the state Department of Transportation, which owns the land, piled up dirt to keep cars out, and it intends to grade and landscape the area with the city’s help to make the prohibition permanent, said DOT spokesman Peter Van Keuren.
Mayor Scott Johnson requested that something be done with the area at a meeting with DOT officials, he said Friday.
Johnson said he would like to see curbs go there eventually as well.
Van Keuren said the department is doing the work for both aesthetic and safety reasons.
“There’s no control of traffic for people pulling in and pulling out of there,” he said.
He said he didn’t know whether there have been many accidents at the site.
“I don’t think there’s an overriding amount of [accidents]. I just think the potential is there for something to occur,” Van Keuren said.
Johnson said residents have reported people driving the wrong way on the divided highway to get to the area. There is no cut in the raised median at that spot, so people driving west on Union Avenue must either drive in the eastbound lanes for a short time or negotiate a U-turn at the traffic light at Yaddo’s entrance and then double back to the lot.
Officials hope the work will be done by summer.
The area has collected litter and attracted commercial trucks with company names that sought free advertising by parking at the site, Van Keuren said.
Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim said he understands the reasons for landscaping the site but is concerned because residents who live just outside the city use the area for carpooling, which reduces pollution.
“I am sure we’re going to hear from some people on this,” Kim said.
Van Keuren noted that other free all-day parking lots exist in the area where people can meet and carpool, including at Wilton Mall, a few lots within the city of Saratoga Springs and lots at exits 12, 11 and 9 of the Northway.
And Johnson said he is working to create a designated park-and-ride lot near Exit 14, perhaps at the BOCES site on nearby Henning Road.
“I’ve met with Upstate Transit and will also be speaking with CDTA about a formal designation of a park-and-ride lot,” he said.
That lot could become part of a bus route as well.
The Union Avenue site once was a proposed location for commercial truck inspections.
Kim said he made that suggestion in 2006 because at that time, the DOT wanted the area to be a permanent, paved park-and-ride lot.
Since a gas station that the city used for truck inspections is now being developed, the police department now conducts inspections on the city’s West Side, many at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s parking lot. Kim said a good location on the East Side for inspections has yet to be found.
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