To drivers who glimpse the Round Lake Bypass from the Northway, it looks almost ready to drive on. And it is, though its public debut is still months away.
The $22.4 million bypass project is on or ahead of schedule, state officials said.
Most of the road was recently paved, and paving through the prominent 60-foot-deep rock cut off Route 9 is scheduled for next week.
The bypass, with its dramatic rock cut and straightaway view from the Northway, is one of the most visible proofs that the Luther Forest Technology Campus is becoming a reality, after years of planning.
The roundabout at the Round Lake end of the bypass could be open to traffic by the end of October. Utility relocations for the roundabout at the Route 9 end mean that the roundabout can’t be built until spring, and the road won’t open until next summer.
“We’re on or ahead of schedule, but construction completion won’t be until July 31, 2009, because of the scheduling for the Route 9 roundabout,” said John Nolan, project engineer for the state Department of Transportation, who gave a tour on Friday.
The new 1.6-mile highway linking Northway Exit 11 and Route 9 around the northwest corner of Round Lake is an integral part of preparations for the technology campus, and possible arrival of an Advanced Micro Devices computer chip plant.
“It’s important because we’re trying not to disrupt the day-to-day lives of people in Round Lake and Malta. We’re trying to get a large amount of traffic from Exit 11 through to the site,” said Michael Relyea, executive director of the Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp.
The goal of the bypass is to keep commuter and truck traffic using Exit 11 from going through the historic Victorian village of Round Lake to get to or from Luther Forest.
“It’s part of the grand vision. You really don’t want to be talking to companies about their employees having to go through this little village,” Relyea said.
A bypass to reduce through traffic had been desired by village officials for many years, but funding didn’t become available until the technology campus was proposed in 2002.
The town’s zoning approval in 2004 recognized the prospective impact on Round Lake, and required that the bypass be built before any high-tech companies move into Luther Forest.
The Department of Transportation has taken the lead on designing and bidding the project, awarding the construction contract just over a year ago to Rifenburg Construction of Troy.
Nolan said the bypass — one of the rare new roads being built by the state — has incorporated state-of-the-art construction technology.
The survey work, for instance, has been done entirely with satellite-based global positioning systems, rather than traditional survey transits, flags and markers, and that has been a significant savings of time and manpower.
“Productivity-wide, I would guess [Rifenburg] is 20 or 30 percent ahead of schedule,” Nolan said.
The project has included construction of a new 630-foot bridge across the Ballston Creek. Just east of that is the rock cut, which required five months of blasting.
About 170,000 cubic meters of rock were removed from the cut, Nolan said. Some was used as fill at other points along the bypass, but about 100,000 cubic meters was taken for use on the internal roads at the technology campus, which are also being built by Rifenburg under a separate contract.
Relyea said the $33 million project to build 5.5 miles of internal road at the campus — an essential part of making the 1,350-acre wooded site ready for industry — is also on or ahead of schedule. Stonebreak Road, the construction entrance road, is to be finished by Nov. 1.
During the tour, Nolan noted that the four new storm runoff areas were built, in consultation with DOT environmental staff and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC was also involved in planning for five acres of new wetland, built to replace wetlands that were destroyed by the project. A full-time water pollution discharge inspector worked on the project, Nolan said.
A new pedestrian bridge carries the Zim Smith recreation trail over the bypass at one end of the Ballston Creek valley. Improvements are also being made to a separate future equestrian trail in the valley owned by a private preservation group, Saratoga PLAN.
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