The intersection of Interstate 890 and Erie Boulevard in front of General Electric is notorious for the fender-bender and rear-end collisions that occur as drivers shift lanes.
Something is going to get done about it.
The regional transportation planning agency on Thursday approved $3.3 million in federal funding to reconfigure the tricky I-890 Exit 4 intersection in Schenectady to make it safer.
The money will go toward a ramp reconfiguration and other safety improvements, though design alternatives are still being studied, according to the state Department of Transportation, which will administer the project.
“It’s an excellent project not only for the city, but for the region,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said.
The funding approval Thursday by the Capital District Transportation Committee guarantees the project will receive federal transportation improvement funding through the “Safe-NY” program.
The intersection, where an elevated interstate meets surface roads, is used every day by tens of thousands of vehicles because of workers at General Electric, students going to Schenectady County Community College and its ready access to downtown Schenectady.
The current configuration can require lane shifts in traffic, and that’s led to problems with abrupt lane changes and people stopping short, especially if they’re not familiar with the traffic pattern. “It’s very confusing down there,” said Niskayuna town Supervisor Joe Landry, a Schenectady County representative on the CDTC board.
DOT is well aware of that. “It’s one of the highest accident rates in the region, actually,” said Frank Bonafide, DOT Region 1 planner.
The construction work is expected to happen by 2016, if not sooner, Bonafide said.
Any construction at the I-890 intersection would come shortly after the city wrapped up a three-year, $14 million reconstruction of Erie Boulevard, rebuilt in an effort to make it a more appealing entrance to the city.
Making the intersection safer will also have economic development benefits, said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Metroplex Development Authority.
“It should make it easier for people to access GE, lower State Street, SCCC and even Scotia,” he said. “All these areas benefit from better, safer access.”
The CDTC board also approved $2 million in federal funding for pedestrian safety improvements along a 15-mile stretch of Route 5 (Central Avenue) between downtown Schenectady and downtown Albany.
The money will be spent over the next year for short-term improvements along the stretch of highway, which has become notorious for its pedestrian-vehicle accidents. There were six pedestrian fatalities along the road over a recent six-year period, along with many nonfatal accidents.
The money will be used for new crosswalks at Brandywine and State streets in Schenectady and at Lark and State in Albany, and a mid-road median will be built to give crossing pedestrians refuge near Colonie Center. There will be installation of new crossing activation buttons at all 81 signalized intersections in the corridor.
A study by Creighton-Manning Engineering found that pedestrian error or confusion was responsible for half of all the vehicle-pedestrian accidents and driver inattention or failure to yield accounted for 37 percent.
Those figures point to the need for public education to go with physical improvements, said Sam Zhou, DOT Region 1 director. “The pedestrian also needs to obey the rules,” he said.
The CDTC board also approved previously announced funding of $1.6 million to build the Geyser Road bicycle and pedestrian trail in Saratoga Springs and $1.1 million for a Central Park-to-downtown trail connection in Schenectady.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: