The two towns around Northway Exit 9 are anticipating extended local traffic disruptions because of the boom rig accident Wednesday morning that seriously damaged the Sitterly Road overpass over the Northway, closing that bridge indefinitely, pending repairs.
Two out of three Northway lanes re-opened before the Thursday morning commute, relieving the shocking wave of additional traffic on local roads that was seen after Wednesday morning’s crash, which abruptly closed all the southbound lanes — but the situation on Thursday wasn’t anywhere near normal, either.
Drivers weren’t allowed to use the Exit 9 southbound entrance ramp for most of Thursday, but the ramp re-opened late Thursday afternoon, and is expected to be open for Friday morning’s commute. The Sitterly Road bridge is another story.
“The Sitterly Road overpass will remain closed until further notice,” DOT’s notice said.
Town officials say the traffic situation was better Thursday than on Wednesday, but the overpass closure will create long-term issues.
“Yesterday morning, it was noticeable throughout town,” Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said Thursday afternoon. “I go to the office early in the morning, and there were roads that might normally have a couple of cars at a light that were noticeably backed up. This morning, it was not nearly as bad, but in the Exit 9 area, it has had the most effect.”
The location of the crash is in Clifton Park, but close to the Halfmoon town border. The two towns are the largest suburban communities in the county, already noted for their high traffic levels, but they are seeing increased traffic on many local roads. Impacted roads included state Route 146, Kinns Road, Grooms Road, Crescent Road and Ushers Road.
“We’re getting a lot of heavy traffic, people using alternative routes,” said Halfmoon Town Supervisor Kevin Tollisen. “We’re continuing to monitor it, and make the best of a bad situation.”
The Exit 9 southbound entrance ramp, normally used by about 12,000 vehicles per day, was initially expected to remain closed until overpass repairs are completed, but DOT officials decided it can safely re-open for now, as they evaluate options for permanent repairs to the damaged overpass.
All three Northway southbound lanes were closed by the crash that spilled a boom rig across all three driving lanes. The lanes remained closed until the overnight hours Wednesday, when the center and left lanes were re-opened. The right lane will remain closed. State police continue to advise motorists to avoid the area if possible.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Bryan Viggiani said he had no information on how long repairs to the Sitterly Road overpass will take, though the Shenendehowa Central School District is telling parents to expect bus route disruptions for about three weeks.
Traffic signal timing on Route 9, as the main alternative to using the Northway, was adjusted to account for the unexpected additional traffic, DOT officials said. Tractor-trailers that normally use the Northway crowded Route 9, which is lined with restaurants and suburban retail businesses.
State police, meanwhile, released additional information on the 5:30 a.m. crash, including the identity of the driver of the truck that was pulling the trailered boom lift. The Admar Supply Co. truck, being driven by George Gizzi, 56, of Colonie, was traveling in the right-most south bound lane when the bridge was struck because the boom lift exceeded the 14-foot, 4-inch height limit for the overpass. The boom was knocked off the trailer, and across all three driving lanes. State police said Gizzi was ticketed, but didn’t specify the charge, citing new restrictions on releasing such information.
Nobody was injured in the crash. Northbound Northway traffic hasn’t been impacted.
Three of the five steel beams supporting the bridge deck suffered damage. The outer beam was sliced through, and two inner beams bent. Overnight Wednesday, DOT placed concrete barriers in the right-most lane to protect workers and installed temporary supports under the bridge until there is a long-term repair plan.
Tollisen said that the two towns, the Saratoga County Office of Emergency Services and DOT are collaborating to try to manage the rearranged traffic patterns. “Everybody is working together for common goals. It’s just an unfortunate situation,” he said.
That section of the Northway is used by about 96,000 vehicles per day, while the Sitterly Road bridge normally is used by more than 15,000 vehicles per day, according to a DOT database. Sitterly Road links Route 9 and residential areas in Halfmoon to the Clifton Park commercial area around Exit 9.
Barrett said it looks like the closure of Sitterly Road will be an extended one, and Clifton Park Center Road, Crossings Boulevard and Route 146 are among the roads feeling the impact.
“As long as Sitterly is closed, it’s going to place a tremendous amount of pressure on all the other roads around there,” Barrett said. “Every day is something new, but we know for sure it will be a number of weeks before Sitterly Road is open completely. We’re advising anyone in that area that traffic is going to be heavier than normal.”