Taking a trip down Glenridge Road was usually a sharp source of ire.
Until recently, the stretch of roadway leading from the Route 146 intersection in Rexford to its junction with Maple Avenue in Glenville was characterized by the two narrow railroad bridges that ran above it. One underpass was too narrow to allow two-way traffic to pass beneath and the other snug enough that wide vehicles sometimes stood a risk of clipping the side-view mirrors of vehicles coming from the other direction.
“You’d always see bits of mirror glass on the ground there,” said James MacFarland, the town’s director of operations, who commuted beneath the two bridges for roughly two decades.
And then there was the timed traffic signal at the approach of the narrowest bridge carrying the Delaware & Hudson tracks. Prior to being removed, the signal would give traffic in one direction a 30-second window to clear the bridge before turning red for a solid minute — time that caused aggravation for drivers during both peak and off-peak hours.
“You sat there forever waiting for the light,” said Lionel Leduc, a Saratoga Springs resident who traveled the road when his work at Verizon brought him to the Schenectady area.
But the aggravation and bottlenecks once so characteristic of Glendridge Road now appear to be a thing of the past. Contractors with the state Department of Transportation are wrapping up a $11.7 million reconstruction project that has transformed the once-frustrating thoroughfare with a high accident rate into a smooth, safe ride for motorists.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Linda Plemenik, a Glenville resident who travels Glenridge Road almost daily during her commute to Waterford. “They did a great job. It makes the commute a lot easier.”
Gone are the two 19th-century era railroad bridges that slowed travel. Also removed are the two traffic signals that frequently created snarls during rush hour.
Now the Boston & Maine railroad tracks are carried by a wide-mouthed trestle that allows for 11-foot travel lanes and 6-foot shoulders underneath. A similar bridge carries the old Delaware & Hudson tracks over Glenridge, alleviating the need for the timed traffic signal.
As part of the project, Glenville inherited several hundred chiseled stone blocks pulled from the two railroad bridges dismantled by the state. The massive blocks, including some that are white marble, were quarried when the state was constructing the Erie Canal.
Town officials are now mulling an appropriate use for the massive rocks. Supervisor Chris Koetzle said one idea is to create a monument with them in one of the town’s parks.
“They have such a long history,” he said. “We wanted to take them and do something with them.”
Workers also constructed a roundabout at the Maple Avenue intersection, an area of the town that becomes congested during the morning and afternoon commutes. The result is a much smoother flow of traffic between Glenville’s town center and its border with Saratoga County — something town officials hope will bolster visits to the commercial corridor along Saratoga Road.
“When this project was first talked about, my eyes lit up,” Koetzle said. “This is a perfect way to bring more shoppers into those businesses.”
The project should also increase the safety of the road, which has an average traffic count of about 9,150 vehicles per day and had a reputation for accidents. Though statistics compiled by the state over the two years before construction began don’t indicate any fatal crashes along the now-reconstructed swath of Glenridge Road — about 0.4 miles running between Bruce Road and Maple Avenue — the area had double the accident rate of similar thoroughfares between 2009 and 2011.
“So you can see the importance of the work we did,” said Bryan Viggiani, a spokesman for the transportation department.
The project also could have some unintended consequences. Glenville police are now on the lookout for speeders taking advantage of the improved traffic flow.
Lt. Stephen Janik said his patrols sometimes caught motorists traveling more than 15 miles over the posted 40 mph speed limit before the reconstruction. With a wider roadway and fewer lights, he’s anticipating more speeding violations through the area.
“We’ve asked patrols to give it more attention,” he said.