Construction of two controversial new roundabouts on Round Lake Road near Northway Exit 11 is expected to start within weeks.
At a special meeting Monday, the Malta Town Board awarded a $4 million construction contract to Rifenburg Construction of Brunswick.
Rifenburg, which has built a number of roundabouts in the recent past in Malta and elsewhere, submitted the lowest of five bids the town received.
“It was actually a little less than the engineers had estimated,” said Town Supervisor Paul J. Sausville. “We’re good to go.”
The construction of the roundabouts at the intersection of Raylinsky-Ruhle roads and Chango Drive was opposed by many local residents who said they feared for pedestrian safety.
“We had known the roundabout project was voted in by certain Town Board members and the bidding process was ending. It will be the residents’ turn to vote in November,” said Elwood Sloat Jr., a retired state police major who fought the roundabouts.
Sloat and other opponents believe that stop light intersections are safer for pedestrians, because they bring traffic to a stop so pedestrians can cross the road.
“Our biggest concern is the kids crossing the street,” Sloat said.
Sausville and other town officials, though, said they’re convinced roundabouts are the safest kind of intersection for the road.
“The engineers have endorsed roundabouts, the state of New York has endorsed roundabouts, everyone who has looked at them endorsed them as the safest solution for pedestrians, because they only have to look in one direction,” Sausville said.
The project also includes sidewalks and other road improvements. Construction is scheduled to be completed by about Oct. 1.
Malta already has 13 roundabouts, the most of any town in the region. They include the series of five around Northway Exit 12 that opened in 2006 and first brought their use to a high public profile.
Studies have shown the severity of accidents is decreased at roundabouts because of slower speeds compared to traffic-light intersections, though the total number of accidents don’t necessarily drop.
The Round Lake Road project has been in planning for about three years, after the town conducted a study that showed traffic on Round Lake Road will increase by up to 30 percent over the next decade, primarily because of new housing construction in the neighboring town of Ballston.
“There’s more houses in Ballston on the drawing board, and there are only a few ways to get to the Northway,” Sausville said. “We expect the traffic to keep on growing for the next decade.”
The total project cost, including engineering and design fees and right-of-way acquisition, is expected to be about $5.2 million.
A federal transportation grant tied to development of the Luther Forest Technology Campus is paying 80 percent of the cost. The remaining $1 million is being paid by the town, with the money coming from a transportation mitigation fund paid for from land development fees, Sausville said.
With the Round Lake construction about to get underway, Sausville said he plans to push for the state to consider improving Route 67 leading to Exit 12, where there were two fatal accidents in the last two months.
“It’s a dangerous road,” he said. “We need to get it on the priority list.”
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