Meeting set on $2.1 million bike trail grant

Rotterdam Junction could benefit from the Empire State Trail
A pickup truck passes a Rotterdam Junction sign on Route 5S in this file photo.
A pickup truck passes a Rotterdam Junction sign on Route 5S in this file photo.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

ROTTERDAM — Town officials will hold a public meeting Thursday to discuss plans to pursue a $2.7 million project for a sidewalk and bicycle safety improvements in Rotterdam Junction to complement state work on the Empire State Trail.

“I think that this type of project coinciding with Empire State Trail would really be a shot in the arm for the area,” said Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone.

The state is spending about $7 million to create new local sections of the state bicycle/recreation trail. Separately, the town is planning its $2.7 million project, which is contigent on receiving a $2.15 million state grant, with the town expected to contribute another $538,880, based on cost estimates.

The town is applying under the stateTransportation Alternatives Program grant program, which would cover up to 80 percent of the cost.

“You’re not going to revitalizing an area of Rotterdam Junction without spending time and money and making sure people can walk from one destination to another,” Tommasone said. “The state is spending millions of dollars on the Empire State Trail, and we’re hopeful of capitalizing on that.”

Rotterdam Junction continues to recover from the flooding damage done by tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011, but it was struggling as a hamlet in the rural western part of a suburban town even before that.

If the state approves the grant application, the work would be done along about a half-mile of state Route 5S, between Bridge Street and Parkis Street. Sidewalks there are crumbling, and Tommasone acknowledged measures need to be taken to slow traffic down on state Route 5S, which is the hamlet’s main street.

The proposed project would add to or replace existing sidewalks along the north side of the highway and create high-visibility crossings with handicapped-access ramps and warning signals at intersections, including where bicyclists would cross if going onto the state trail. New directional signage would also be installed.

If the project is funded, there would also be efforts to slow traffic. “It’s primarily a vehicle-oriented road right now, and we’d like to make it more multi-modal,” said Fred Mastroianni, an engineer with GPI, the Albany engineering firm developing the application.

To slow traffic, travel lanes on Route 5S would be reduced from 12 feet to 11 feet in an effort to slow traffic and make more room for bicycles. Solar-powered radar speed signs would also be installed in the area.

“The whole idea is we want to calm traffic and slow it down,” Mastroianni said.

About 4,200 vehicles per day pass through Rotterdam Junction, most of them passing through between Amsterdam and Schenectady. The Junction is the biggest settlement along that route, with a 40 mph speed limit, whereas most of the rest of the route is 55 mph.

“I personally believe the speed limit in that area should be 30 mph,” Tommasone said.

The predestrian and handicapped-accesse improvements would also extend down Iroquois Street, south off of Route 5S, which will be the connection to the Empire State Trail.

The Empire State Trail is a $200 million plan to create a 750-mile off-road bicycle route that would run from Buffalo to Albany and New York City to Canada. About 80 percent of the route between Buffalo and Albany already exists as the Erie Canalway Trail, and the new initiative has funding to close the remaining gaps.

One of the large gaps in the Capital Region is from where the trail now ends south of railroad tracks in Rotterdam Junction to just east of Amsterdam. A project currently under construction is building the trail section from Amsterdam to Pattersonville. DOT is working on plans to close the remaining gap, which includes two railroad crossings.

Tommasone said he is hopeful that the local Empire State Trail work and the work proposed in Rotterdam Junction can be coordinated to save money for both the town and the state.

The public information meeting on the grant application is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, at the Rotterdam Junction fire station on Route 5S.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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