The idea of a new Northway exit just north of Exit 11 in Round Lake needs more study as planning starts for a second GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Luther Forest, town officials said.
“When will Exit 11A be needed? That’s something we ought to know,” said Malta town Supervisor Paul Sausville. “If it will be needed in eight years, then we need to start preparing now.”
The town this week asked GlobalFoundries to expand its traffic studies to look more closely at the idea so it can fully evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the $10 billion second computer chip plant being proposed at the company’s Fab 8 site.
Preliminary plans for a new exit on the south side of the Ballston Creek Valley were drawn up a decade ago in anticipation of development at the Luther Forest Technology Campus. Under current zoning, the new plant can’t be built unless an Exit 11A is being constructed.
GlobalFoundries says the exit won’t be needed for the new plant if improvements to handle additional traffic are made at six existing town intersections. The company has asked that the zoning requirement for the new exit be dropped, saying it limits its ability to move forward with the second plant.
But Stuart Messenger of The Chazen Group, who is coordinating the environmental review on behalf of the towns of Malta and Stillwater, said GlobalFoundries hasn’t provided enough information on the proposed alternative improvements. Among the missing information is how much those improvements would cost and who would pay for them, he said.
“We understand Exit 11A isn’t going to happen right away and there’s no other development in the tech park. … But sooner or later, there will be,” Messenger said. “Does their evaluation include that?”
Because of the need for federal and state approvals, obtaining funding and the time needed for construction, it is estimated completion of a new exit would take eight to 10 years.
Matthew Jones of Saratoga Springs, an attorney for GlobalFoundries, said the studies the town has requested shouldn’t take long.
“In the past, we’ve been able to turn them around quickly, and I think we will again,” he said. “We expect to keep the process moving forward. This is part of the process.”
GlobalFoundries is hoping to get town zoning approvals for the new plant by this summer, though it has not committed to following through with actual construction.
A Fab 8.2, as insiders now refer to it, could increase the GlobalFoundries workforce from today’s 2,000 to nearly 5,000 by 2021, in addition to creating thousands of construction jobs. The additional traffic those workers would create is expected to be one of the project’s major environmental impacts.
Round Lake Mayor Dixie Lee Sacks said the new exit is needed, and she is circulating a petition supporting it.
The village already is seeing increased truck traffic at Exit 11, she said, including trucks bringing industrial chemicals to GlobalFoundries. She’s afraid one will have an accident coming downhill into the roundabout at the start of the Round Lake Bypass.
Trucks coming to and from the intermodal rail yard that opened last year in Halfmoon also use Exit 11, including that roundabout.
Sacks said it would be better to shift that traffic to a new exit north of the small village, with its collection of quaint architecture. “Right now, I think it should be left in the [zoning],” Sacks said.
Even if a full exit isn’t feasible, a northbound exit ramp to the Round Lake Bypass would help, Sacks said.
The towns are also asking for additional studies of the demands GlobalFoundries is putting on the tech campus’ infrastructure.
GlobalFoundries contends the second plant can be built without major electric, gas, water or sewer improvements. But town officials want the company to study what the additional water and power use would mean for the future of other development.
“If GlobalFoundries is going to take essentially all the infrastructure intended for the whole park, then other provisions need to be made,” said Malta Councilman Peter Klotz.