SCHENECTADY — A study of potentially relocating of the I-890 ramps from Washington Avenue to the rear of SUNY Schenectady is among 59 transportation projects proposed across the Capital Region.
The Capital District Transportation Committee on Tuesday released its draft 2022-2027 Transportation Improvement Program plan for more than $300 million in federal transportation money.
The largest projects are a rebuild of a stretch of Route 7 in Rensselaer County ($12.72 million) and two bridge repairs connecting Interstate 787 to the South Mall in Albany ($15.3 million and $17.55 million).
Several major projects are proposed in or near the city of Schenectady:
- Rebuild Route 146 bridge over I-890, $8.94 million;
- Replace Route 146 bridge over Chrisler Avenue, $7.56 million;
- Resurface Interstate 890 from Exit 25 to Broadway/Erie Boulevard, $5.04 million;
- Craig Street vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle upgrades, $4.79 million;
- Crane Street bridge rehab, $4.24 million.
The transportation planning and environmental study for the Exit 4C off-ramp and the on-ramp from Washington Avenue to I-890 carries a comparatively small price tag, at $440,000.
But while the more-expensive projects are repairs to what already exists, the Exit 4C project would be a major revision to that little corner of the city, perhaps even transformative.
Traffic between State Street and I-890 would be rerouted near the Mohawk River behind SUNY Schenectady County Community College instead of running right in front of the college.
Thousands of vehicles a day now use Washington Avenue to get between the two local through routes, creating a noisy obstruction between the college’s main campus and the increasing number of facilities it uses east of Washington Avenue.
There’s also a safety risk to students crossing the busy street.
“I’m really looking forward to the study and hopefully moving this project along,” SUNY Schenectady President Steady Moono said Tuesday. “It opens up possibilities for the college to expand eastward toward the city.”
Washington Avenue sits between the main campus and several sites used by the college: A parking lot, student housing, space at the former YMCA, the Kindl Building, culinary and brewing labs at Frog Alley and, farther east, Center City.
Slashing the traffic volume on Washington Avenue would remove a literal and psychological barrier between the college and the rest of the city, Moono said, and would better embed the college within the community.
It would cost the college some of its expansive rear parking lots, he said, but “I think that’s a fair tradeoff.”
An added bonus: Building up the road infrastructure along the river might reduce the college’s vulnerability to floods.
“You really can’t stop it from flooding completely but you can mitigate it significantly,” Moono said.
The former state armory across Washington Avenue from the college, now an event venue and film studio, likely would benefit from a reconfigured Exit 4C as well.
“It’s a win win win for everyone,” said Armory Studios co-owner Ray Legere.
The armory is currently hosting “Van Gogh — The Immersive Experience” and drawing hundreds of visitors a day. It has hosted larger one-day events and smaller continuing uses such as sports practice or film shoots, but this is really its first sustained experience with waves of new visitors each hour, each day.
“People have asked me where the armory is,” Legere said.
The imposing building is right beside the off-ramp, but you can’t get there directly from the ramp, and a driver concentrating on merging and slowing might not even notice it.
Legere actually had to petition Google to change its mapping so the armory didn’t show up as fronting on the off-ramp.
Meanwhile, traffic can stack a half-mile up the ramp at the busiest travel times, he said. Relocating the flow to the rear of the college would create a piazza effect between the armory and the college and continue the progress being made in the Lower State Street area, he said.
The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority directed $1.4 million in street improvements on South Church Street that made a huge difference, Legere said, and more people are visiting the area.
“What J.T.’s done over at Frog Alley is beyond belief,” he added, referring to architect J.T. Pollard’s Mill Lane project, which occupies one side of an entire block of State Street. “The summer music series, thousands of people are coming over.”
Separate from this are the college and the riverfront, Legere said. “It’s like you’re over here or over there.”
Other projects proposed in Schenectady County:
- Central Avenue resurfacing and drainage repairs, Colonie into Niskayuna, $7.88 million;
- Route 5S slope repair, Rotterdam, $3.1 million;
- Pedestrian safety improvements at five intersections along Brandywine Avenue and McClellan Street, $1.72 million;
- Freemans Bridge multi-use path, Phase II, Glenville, $1.6 million;
- Grand Boulevard from Van Antwerp Road to Keyes Avenue, pavement repair, bicycle lanes, wheelchair access, $1.12 million;
- Central Park bike/pedestrian path expansion, $536,000.
To the north, in Saratoga County, the projects listed in the 2022-2027 draft TIP are:
- Wilton — Northway Exit 16 interchange improvements and bridge replacement, $9 million;
- Halfmoon — Riverview Road bridge replacement, $7.98 million;
- Saratoga Springs — Nelson Avenue Extension bridge replacement, $5.33 million;
- Wilton — two roundabouts and a pedestrian/bike path along Carr, Jones and Northern Pines roads, $3.77 million;
- Clifton Park — Kinns Road-Plank Road intersection improvements, $1.98 million;
- Wilton — Dimmick Road bridge replacement, $1.81 million;
- Saratoga — Route 32 bridge replacement, $1.3 million;
- Malta — East Line Road and Route 67 roundabout, design only, $1 million;
- Zim Smith Trail — Northern Extension, design only, $500,000;
- Clifton Park — improvements at the Tanner Road and Waite Road intersections on Route 146, design only, $500,000;
- Halfmoon — Route 236/Guideboard Road intersection improvements, design only, $500,000;
- Wilton — Route 50 safety improvements, design only, $500,000;
- Corinth — rehabilitation of Heath Road bridge, $374,000;
- Downtown Saratoga Springs — pedestrian/traffic signal improvements, $107,000.
CDTC is the metropolitan planning organization for Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties and almost all of Saratoga County. It selects state-funded transportation projects that will receive federal reimbursement.
The CDTC invited public comment on individual projects in its draft plan, the plan as a whole, the air quality analysis that accompanies them, and the process by which they were all put together.
Comments can be submitted online via the CDTC’s feedback portal at https://www.cdtcmpo.org/transportation-plans/2022-2027-tip/22-27-tip-feedback or can be offered in person at the following times and locations:
- July 27, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Saratoga County Office Building, 50 W. High St., Ballston Spa;
- July 30, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Troy Waterfront Farmers Market, Monument Square;
- Aug. 2, 5-7 p.m., Main Branch Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Ave., Albany.