While we can appreciate GlobalFoundries’ fear over having to secure the timely cooperation of local, state and federal governments to get an Exit 11A built off the Northway to accommodate a third large manufacturing plant at Luther Forest Technology Campus, it’s worth pointing out that this exercise wouldn’t have even been necessary if the project had been sited more intelligently in the first place — in a city with existing infrastructure rather than the middle of a forest.
That said, GlobalFoundries may need as many as four separate entities to sign off on its latest expansion plans, which could prove to be a bureaucratic nightmare. So the company has offered an alternative: It will pay for improvements to a number of key roads in the area of the plants — doing things like re-engineering roundabouts and intersections so they can handle more traffic, installing traffic lights and creating turn lanes to enhance traffic flow. As tempting as the offer may sound, the towns of Malta and Stillwater — which created the Northway exit requirement when the original chip fab was approved eight years ago — should not be too quick to sign off on it.
The requirement stipulated that a new Northway exit would have to be built if a third plant was built at Luther Forest. There’s one in operation now (with 2,000 employees); and a second one — GloFo’s research and development center, with another 1,000 workers — is due to open next year. On Feb. 1, the company filed a zoning application for a third plant, where another 1,800 people would work. It hasn’t decided to go forward yet, but if it does, it wouldn’t open the plant for another seven or eight years.
That’s more than enough time for the locals to get together with the state and federal governments to plan and build a new highway exit — at GloFo’s, not taxpayers’ expense — or, better yet, force GloFo to come up with some real alternatives to getting workers in and out of Luther Forest. Alternatives like free bus service and carpools.
Granted, government bureaucrats tend to move at a glacial pace, but with 1,800 good manufacturing jobs on the line, we suspect politicians will be falling over themselves to ensure that the right government agencies take care of business in a timely manner — just as they did with the original GloFo plant.
But let them try to employ a few smart growth principles this time around. While it’s possible that with GloFo’s proposed tweaks, the Round Lake bypass and myriad roundabouts that have been built over the past few years could handle the increased traffic flow from two additional plants (not to mention the hundreds of added trucks that will be coming from the new intermodal rail-freight facility in Halfmoon), it seems unlikely. We’d rather see some effort to reduce that traffic than a bundle of money spent and more green space paved over trying to accommodate it.
These are the kinds of issues for traffic engineers to decide, though, and they’ve certainly got the time. They need to get started soon.