People familiar with driving around Amsterdam chuckle when they ponder what to expect next week when new traffic patterns go into effect.
Changes will bring oncoming traffic into lanes people have grown accustomed to traveling in only one direction for more than 30 years.
It’s a change expected to make it easier for people to find downtown businesses — but one some don’t expect will be easy for drivers to get used to.
“It’s going to be interesting,” said Amsterdam DPW foreman Ray Halgas, who said the current traffic patterns date back to the mid-1970s when a new bridge was built over the Mohawk River.
“If you look at the traffic patterns, you’ll be all right. The problem is going to be the people that aren’t going to watch out and are used to the old way,” Halgas said.
Starting Oct. 1, there will be two-way traffic on the westbound section of state Route 5 between Liberty Street and West Main Street, according to State Department of Transportation spokesman James Piccola.
Two-way traffic will also begin on part of state Route 30 between East Main Street and state Route 5 westbound.
The project involved replacing seven traffic signals.
And the signal at the intersection of East Main and Market streets will now stop traffic in all directions.
One of the changes will bring traffic around Route 5 and down Liberty Street in front of the offices of the Greater Amsterdam School District.
Despite orange cones and bright yellow road paint marking out the two-way traffic plans, people have continued using both lanes.
With the new pattern they’ll find oncoming traffic in the left-hand lane. The new configuration will make it easier to get to the Amsterdam Riverfront Center and to East Main Street.
“I expect everyone will follow the right pattern,” Thomas Perillo, superintendent at the Amsterdam school district, said with a chuckle.
School bus drivers and others are all aware of the patterns, Perillo said.
“It’s going to have to be slow-going for the first few months. Having the pattern going in one flow for so many years, it could be easy for someone to make a mistake,” he said.
The DPW’s Halgas said the road setup, as established by the DOT, likely is giving motorists plenty of time to get used to the changes.
But he said people should keep an eye out for drivers unfamiliar with the new patterns, or those who not paying attention to them.
“You’re going to have to worry about the other person that doesn’t know where they’re going,” Halgas said.
Though change is difficult, Mayor Ann Thane views it as a positive step.
The city’s downtown area has been wrapped up in a labyrinth of circling one-way traffic for so long it’s led to the lack of visibility for Main Street businesses.
“I think people have been anxious to see this start and I look forward to driving the new pattern that day,” Thane said.
“It’s going to be what this community had asked for and it’s going to be a positive change,” Thane said.