Fulton County is moving forward with a grant-funded study exploring easier ways to bring traffic from the Thruway exit in Fultonville to Johnstown, despite Montgomery County balking at its half of the deal.
The two counties applied for a $400,000 grant approved last year by the federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program. The money would support a $500,000 study to see if there’s a way to bring traffic from Exit 28 in Montgomery County to Route 30A, a main artery leading to areas ripe for business development along the counties’ border.
But after the award announcement, the Montgomery County’s Board of Supervisors decided not to participate in the study. The board rejected the $50,000 in spending and wouldn’t sign off on a resolution to allow Fulton County to go it alone.
The state DOT, which administers highway grants on behalf of federal agencies, recently gave Fulton County approval to go ahead with the study, according to Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon R. Stead.
It’s unclear whether a bypass would even be feasible, Stead said.
“It’s been something that’s been talked about for some time,” he said. “It’s a study to see what’s feasible and what’s not.”
The study also will explore the impact a bypass would have on localities like Fonda and Fultonville. If a connector from the Thruway were built, both Montgomery County villages would lose the truck traffic motorists curse at, but merchants in the two villages might also lose revenue from those motorists passing through.
Stead said the study will explore how many areas a bypass would open up for opportunities, but also ask “is it going to detour folks around their already-existing business district?”
Narrow turns and difficult intersections may also be dissuading business interests from considering the prime developable land on Route 30A, now accessible from the Thruway only by going through Fultonville and Fonda.
People have pointed to Switzer Hill Road as a potential pathway for a bypass bridge that would cross the Mohawk River, but Stead said there’s no predetermined route spelled out in the request for the study.
Fulton County’s quest to learn the details of what a bypass would mean in terms of cost and impact leaves Montgomery County without a seat at the table. But Amsterdam town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza said the situation doesn’t necessarily contradict the new theme both counties are trying to embrace for the benefit of business: cooperation.
DiMezza said discussion he recalls from the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors meeting focused not on Fulton County but on the cost of the study and whether a project is even realistic.
“My feeling, No. 1, is, for $500,000, what the hell are you going to study? I think the price of the study is outrageous,” he said.
DiMezza said there aren’t many realistic paths over the river to Route 30A, and residents on Switzer Hill Road area have expressed concern over spoiling that scenic area.
Homes were built on the roads now used as highways, he said.
“I can’t change that, but I can certainly try and prevent something from happening in a very nice, agricultural and residential area going up Switzer Hill.”
DiMezza said the two counties can still succeed in the goal of working together.
“We want to hold hands, and we want to be close to each other, and we want to develop that area on Route 30A,” he said. “There’s other ways to do things.”
Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer said the board’s pullback caused a “little bit of tension” between the two counties, but he believes “we’ll still be friends.” He said Switzer Hill Road residents’ concerns about being a target for development were persuasive.
“Many of them have put quite a bit of money into their homes,” the Minden Republican said.
The Fulton County board has a committee interviewing engineering firms with backgrounds in these types of projects, Stead said. Once interviews are complete, a recommendation will be sent to the board, and a study could be launched by the end of the year, he said.