Op-ed column: Crossing over the Mohawk

What is the thought process of the state to invest $1.2 billion in a chip fab plant in Malta, when i

Even before the implosion of the Crown Point Bridge last month, the condition of area bridges had been weighing heavily on my mind for quite some time. With the Batchellerville Bridge over Sacandaga Reservoir and the Route 9P span over Fish Creek both reduced to single-lane alternating traffic, one has to wonder what the Capital District Transportation Committee and the state Department of Transportation planners have been doing in regard to our local infrastructure.

What is the thought process of the state to invest $1.2 billion in a chip fab plant in Malta, when if one more bridge closes, is reduced to one lane or fails to the point of collapse, no one will be able to get to or from the plant.

That comment may be tongue in cheek, but consider that the I-87 span over the Mohawk River (Kosciuzko Bridge, also known as the Twin Bridges) is the only interstate bridge over the river between Montreal (Canada’s second largest city) and New York City (America’s largest city). If that span had to be posted or closed for any length of time, the next closest interstate routes between those cities are I-81 in Syracuse or I-91 in Massachusetts and Vermont, neither convenient. Also think of the chaos and commuting nightmare we would suffer.

Lack of planning

Remember the divide-and-conquer strategy of the British during the Revolutionary War? We would accomplish much the same with the Twin Bridges’ closure. The recent $10 million-plus rehabilitation Band-Aid that was administered to the span is typical of this area’s transportation ideas or lack thereof. The Twin Bridges, opened in 1959, are not that much younger than the Crown Point Bridge, opened in 1930. Their design life cycle is approaching the end.

Let me offer a solution to DOT and the CDTC, one that would solve a couple of traffic problems simultaneously: Build an interstate bypass, starting at the western end of I-890, where the newest span over the Mohawk, the Exit 26 Bridge, is situated. The bypass would travel up through Glenville with interchanges for Route 147, Route 50 and continue east to the Northway, where a new interchange could be built, preferably tied into the Round Lake Bypass and the new chip plant. The new bypass should be built before overdevelopment precludes it.

Potential benefits

Here is a brief list of advantages to this new bypass:

— Collect tolls — if not from all vehicles, at least from truckers — to increase revenues.

— Force pass-through truckers to use the bypass to ease traffic over the Twin Bridges. Enforcement could be done through E-ZPass records.

— The bypass would alleviate congestion at Thruway Exit 24.

— A new interchange at Thruway Exit 26 would let traffic connect to I-88.

— Traffic on the Rexford Bridge would improve with a new alternate route to Knolls, via the Exit 26 Bridge, I-890, the Crosstown and Balltown Road.

— Route 67 truck traffic would decrease, making that route safer.

— Traffic barriers between Schenectady and Saratoga counties would finally be addressed, i.e. the Route 146/ Glenridge Road/ Maple Avenue bottleneck.

— Montgomery and Fulton counties could potentially realize an economic upturn from traffic improvement, i.e. bedroom communities for Capital Region work force.

This area has lost and continues to lose jobs, corporations and even sport franchises to other cities like Cleveland, Charlotte, Atlanta, etc. Do you know why?

Those areas build highways and bypasses to accommodate traffic. Heck, NYSDOT Region 2 spent $33 million a few years ago on the Judd Road bypass in Utica to an airport that doesn’t even have a commercial flight.

Bikeways, hikeways, railways and roundabouts are nice, especially if you live in Europe.

We don’t.

The automobile isn’t going anywhere in the near future, unless a few more bridges close or, God forbid, collapse.

Christopher Hart lives in Saratoga Springs. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.

Categories: Opinion

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