Saratoga County

New Northway exit not needed, study’s draft says

A major new study of GlobalFoundries’ traffic impact on central Saratoga County will throw cold wate
Traffic is seen leaving the GlobalFoundries Fab 8 complex in Malta on April 23.
Traffic is seen leaving the GlobalFoundries Fab 8 complex in Malta on April 23.

A major new study of GlobalFoundries’ traffic impact on central Saratoga County will throw cold water on the idea of a new Northway exit north of Round Lake.

The $500,000 study’s draft findings are that other traffic-management measures than building a new exit will cost less and be more effective in helping cope with growing traffic volumes.

The draft conclusions will be released publicly at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Malta Community Center, 1 Bayberry Drive, off Route 9. There will be a presentation, followed by the chance for the public to respond.

The study by Creighton Manning Engineering of Albany was initiated in 2014 after discussions about the possible expansion of GlobalFoundries Fab 8 re-ignited talk about the exit.

The draft findings, however, are that anticipated traffic growth, even if GlobalFoundries builds another plant, can be addressed with $20 million in local intersection improvements — and be as effective as spending $70 million on a new exit, said Michael V. Franchini, executive director of the Capital District Transportation Committee.

“We did [computer] model Exit 11A and found most of the people would not use Exit 11A,” said Franchini, whose organization helped manage the study.

Most people coming to GlobalFoundries on the Northway from the north would still use Exit 12, he said, while the Round Lake Bypass has made Exit 11 convenient for those coming from the south.

A new exit would require at least a decade of planning, even if data justified it, state and federal officials have said.

The new exit was envisioned, though, when the Luther Forest Technology Campus was first discussed in the early 2000s. It was even made a requirement if multiple semiconductor plants were to be built. But the necessary studies to move forward were never started.

The Creighton Manning study could have helped lay a foundation, but instead found that the Round Lake Bypass built in 2008 is addressing many of the concerns about local traffic.

“It is not warranted at this time based on the amount of traffic coming to GlobalFoundries,” said Charlton Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge, chairman of the county Public Works Committee.

About 3,000 people work at GlobalFoundries, the only tenant in the Luther Forest tech park. The draft study finds that while traffic levels have increased because of the computer chip plant, intersections around Malta and Stillwater still function better than those located in existing urban areas like Albany.

In 2013, the towns of Malta and Stillwater agreed that GlobalFoundries could proceed with another semiconductor plant — called Fab 8.2 — without the new exit, if a series of turn lanes and other intersection improvements were made. GlobalFoundries isn’t currently pursuing the new plant, but still could.

Franchini said the study will recommend improvements at numerous intersections if growth continues, including places in northern Clifton Park and in Ballston. The plans include new turn lanes in some spots, and replacement of stop sign intersections with traffic lights or roundabouts, he said.

Once the study is done, road owners could use it as a basis to apply for federal funding, Franchini said.

Also weighed in the study is the traffic impact of hundreds of trucks each day using Route 67 because of the intermodal railroad yard in Halfmoon. A separate freight traffic study last week recommended $10 million in reconstruction in that road corridor to make it a better truck route.

Grattidge said the information in the regional traffic study will be useful as new business projects are proposed in Luther Forest.

“We all know that traffic comes up almost the first thing when someone proposes something,” Grattidge said.

The Center for Economic Growth in Albany and the Capital District Transportation Committee, which manages federal transportation spending for the region, have managed the study.

A National Grid economic development grant paid $250,000 of the cost. Also participating in the study’s funding were the county, the towns of Malta and Stillwater and GlobalFoundries. The state Department of Transportation and Empire State Development were also involved in the study.

“This shows we are all pulling in the same direction and we will have this data available going forward,” Grattidge said.

The goal will be to finalize the study early next year, after any public comment has been considered.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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