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What you need to know for 02/23/2017

Officials discuss prospect of new Northway exit

Officials discuss prospect of new Northway exit

Local officials have begun talking about serious planning for a new Northway Exit 11A, though the ef

Local officials have begun talking about serious planning for a new Northway Exit 11A, though the effort will take many years.

The exit would provide a direct route for workers and deliveries going to the growing GlobalFoundries computer chip complex, relieving future congestion on the local road system.

“We realize it isn’t justified at this point, but it may well be justified in a decade or so,” said Malta Town Supervisor Paul J. Sausville.

Sausville was among local elected officials and economic development officials who met Friday with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, to discuss the prospect.

Plans for GlobalFoundries to expand its Fab 8 computer chip complex at the Luther Forest Technology Campus have revived talk about building an exit a mile north of Round Lake.

“I think the meeting was very productive,” said Round Lake Mayor Dixie Lee Sacks, who hosted the meeting at the Village Hall.

Tonko spokesman Clinton Britt said the meeting was primarily a fact-finding effort on the congressman’s behalf. Tonko only started representing southern Saratoga County in January.

Exit 11A has been back in the public eye since GlobalFoundries submitted plans recently to the towns of Malta and Stillwater for a second computer chip factory.

Current zoning requires that the new exit be ready before another factory — the third manufacturing facility in the technology campus — can open at the tech campus.

GlobalFoundries wants the requirement dropped, saying even in the best-case scenario, construction of a new exit can’t happen in the time frame it wants for Fab 8.2, which could open as soon as 2016. The company has yet to make a commitment to build it, though.

In lieu of the exit to help handle the additional traffic from thousands more workers, GlobalFoundries wants to substitute traffic-mitigation improvements at five to seven existing intersections.

Some Malta residents, however, have urged the town to keep pursuing Exit 11A. “It’s a quality-of-life issue, to get the traffic off the local roads and take it directly into the campus,” Sausville said.

Exit 11A was written into the law when zoning for the technology campus was approved in 2004. It was included as a way of reducing anticipated traffic impacts in and around Round Lake, if the tech park were built out. However, planning wasn’t pursued through the federal and state transportation improvement planning processes.

It’s generally believed it takes at least eight to 12 years to get a new interstate exit designed, financed and constructed. The last new exit built on the Northway was Exit 8A in Clifton Park, which opened in the 1990s, after more than a decade of discussion about how to relieve traffic congestion at existing exits in the fast-growing Clifton Park-Halfmoon area.

Ballpark estimates of the cost of a new exit are in the $70 million to $80 million range. There’s no immediate prospect of federal funding, said Michael Franchini, executive director of the Capital District Transportation Committee, who attended the meeting.

The CDTC controls the spending of federal transportation money in the region, but funding was held flat in the federal transportation bill approved last year.

“There’s no money right now for this kind of project,” Franchini said.

About 20 people attended the meeting with Tonko, including representatives of the Saratoga County and southern Saratoga chambers of commerce, Saratoga Economic Development Corp., and GlobalFoundries. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also had a representative present.

The organizers said Tonko wants to meet with them again in six months to discuss progress.

“We have to show there’s a need, which means there may need to be additional traffic studies,” Sacks said.

She said it’s important for federal and state officials to understand that GlobalFoundries, where 2,000 people work today and potentially 6,700 will work by 2020, wouldn’t be the only beneficiary of a new exit.

“It’s not all GlobalFoundries,” Sacks said. “You have the intermodal rail yard in Mechanicville that’s not yet built out, and GlobalFoundries isn’t always going to be the only company [in the tech park].”

The town of Malta continues to do an environmental review of the Fab 8.2 plan, and will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at Malta town hall.

GlobalFoundries officials want to have zoning approvals in place this summer.

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