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What you need to know for 01/19/2018

Editorial: Roundabouts right for Malta

Editorial: Roundabouts right for Malta

They work, once motorists are used to them

It’s hard to keep track of the roundabouts in the Saratoga County town of Malta, because their number keeps rising. Town leaders are now proposing two more on Round Lake Road, and are right to do so.

Most local residents have gotten used to the roundabouts, where at rush hour drivers may feel like they’re part of an elaborate, old-fashioned dance. The two-lane one at the intersection of Route 9 and Dunning Road can be tricky to navigate, especially for pedestrians. But they mostly beat the alternatives, which are traffic lights or stop signs. They keep traffic moving.

New housing developments in Ballston have increased traffic on Round Lake Road, which is also on a commuter route between the Luther Forest Technology Campus (home of GlobalFoundries) and Schenectady County. The roundabouts are needed there as they were in the rest of the fast-growing town.

But how to pay for them? Saratoga County supports the concept but won’t contribute to the estimated $4.75 million worth of improvements to Round Lake Road recommended by a town study. The federal government could cover 80 percent of the cost, with the town paying the rest. The federal money is in an unspent earmark obtained in 2004 by then-Rep. John Sweeney for road improvements connected to the tech campus.

Town Supervisor Paul Sausville has asked Rep. Chris Gibson to help obtain the funding. Gibson’s office says the request is under review, but under a new House rule the earmark language can’t be changed and the U.S. Department of Transportation will decide if the funds can be spent on the project. Gibson needs to make it happen.

Unfortunately, even though town leaders have gotten roundabouts right, they are moving in the wrong direction on downtown development. New height restrictions and setback requirements in the works will make downtown projects on the scale of Route 9’s Ellsworth Commons no longer possible. That may please some local residents who are upset at the pace of change, but change is inevitable because of past decisions ranging from construction of the Adirondack Northway to Luther Forest. The Town Board’s decision to reduce allowable density downtown will increase development pressure in the rest of Malta, eating up more open space and spreading sprawl.

Still, at least the roundabouts make it easier to drive through.

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