CAPITAL REGION — Just because kids are back in school and leaves are changing color doesn’t mean the region’s drivers can stop worrying about construction zones.
In fact, wet weather in August and September has slowed work on some major state highway paving projects, a DOT spokesman said, though he wouldn’t say contractors had fallen significantly behind because of weather delays.
“The weather is a challenge, but obviously we schedule some extra time into these contracts. We know not every day will be warm and sunny,” said DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani.
That’s certainly true this year. Since July, it has been wetter than normal for most of the Capital Region, according to the National Weather Service — though areas to the north, the Adirondacks in particular, remain dryer than in a normal year.
“The I-90 corridor is really separating above normal from below normal,” said weather service meteorologist Dan Thompson.
In July, the Albany International Airport weather station recorded 4.72 inches of rain; whereas the historic average is 4.12 inches. In August, the airport recorded 4.2 inches, nearly a full inch more than average.
And then came September: Through midnight Thursday, the airport had recorded 5.13 inches (more fell Friday morning), which compared to 2.94 inches normally.
“Albany and points southward, it has really been wetter than normal,” Thompson said.
Ongoing road construction or paving work means that motorists still need to be aware of construction zones and respectful of the people working there, Viggiani said.
Over the summer, DOT officials said they’ve seen an “alarming” increase in aggressive behavior toward those working in construction zones. In Buffalo, two workers were shot with a paintball gun — they weren’t seriously injured — while in the Mohawk Valley a motorist threw coffee at a flagger and sped past them.
“While we are fortunate that neither was seriously harmed, I am disgusted by this flagrant show of disrespect toward our workers and disregard for their safety,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at the time.
In 2017, NYSDOT reported 660 crashes in construction work zones on state roads and bridges, resulting in 10 fatalities and 160 injuries.
“We really needs the public’s cooperation as far as driving through work zones,” Viggiani said. “It’s very important for the safety of our workers and also for the safety of drivers. They’re not trying to intentionally slow you.”
There is continuing road work throughout the region.
“We’re still out there working, and will be until the snow flies,” Viggiani said.
In Saratoga County, the state in September tackled one of its biggest paving projects of the year — repaving the roughly three-mile stretch of Route 67 between State Farm Boulevard and Route 50 south of Ballston Spa. That work is scheduled to be done around Friday.
That stretch of highway is used by about 20,000 vehicles per day, as it serves as the main route between western Saratoga County and Northway Exit 12. Because of how busy the road is during commuting hours, the state’s contractors are doing their paving work at night, when there’s less traffic.
“It’s because of the traffic flow and not trying to disrupt traffic, that’s why we’re doing it this way,” Viggiani said. “We light it well. Obviously we’re trying to keep our workers safe.”
That work is being done under a $7.5 million contract that covers paving on six roads. Once the Route 67 project is finished, the contractor will switch to the last road of the year: a 5.3-mile section of Route 4 in Halfmoon and Waterford. That work should begin by mid-October.
In Schenectady County, both the $3.5 million Michigan Avenue bridge rehab in Schenectady and the $12.5 million Hamburg Street project in Rotterdam are due to wrap up this fall, after two years of work. On Michigan Avenue, sidewalk concrete was poured in late September, but more sidewalk work and installation of pedestrian fencing is scheduled for October.
“Michigan Avenue has been moving along very well,” Viggiani said.
On Hamburg Street, the westbound paving work is done, but the final layer of paving still has to be happen in the eastbound lane, along with completion of sidewalks, curbing and final drainage. There are still lane shifts and closures and flaggers directing traffic at times, Viggiani said, and some work occurring on Saturdays.
In Albany County, the $15 million reconstruction of Cohoes Boulevard to increase pedestrian safety began in August, though Viggiani said major traffic impacts are only starting now. That project — on the road that extends into Cohoes after I-787 ends near Green Island — will last through the end of 2019.
In Montgomery County, work is continuing on replacing the $1.7 million rehab of the Route 5S bridge over Terwilleger Creek east of Amsterdam, while that area’s major paving project — a $3.7 million project covering some 4.5 miles of Route 67 from the Saratoga County line to Amsterdam — is almost complete. “There will be minor construction operations through October,” said DOT Region 2 spokesman Jim Piccola.
As part of the same paving contract, contractors will repave 0.6 miles of Riverside Drive in Fultonville, from Route 30A to the State Thruway entrance, has yet to start. That project also includes signal upgrades, Piccola said.