Schenectady officials are holding a public meeting next week at which they will discuss four separate options — including a roundabout — aimed at smoothing traffic at the intersection of Nott Street and Erie Boulevard.
The public meeting will be held Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at College Park Hall, 450 Nott St.
Other options include re-striping lanes and changing traffic signals and putting in a style of ramp that’s popular in New Jersey.
“That intersection has what we call a low level of service,” said City Engineer Christopher Wallin. “It’s a non-efficient intersection. Erie Boulevard is substantially wide, it takes a lot of traffic, while Nott Street is skewed and doesn’t have sufficient capacity. So when you get near the railroad bridge before the intersection, Nott gets choked and traffic backs up.”
Wallin explained the intersection’s other failings. Nott Street has two lanes but three options for drivers at the intersection: left or right onto Erie or straight over Erie and onto Front Street. The street narrows under the bridge. The Front Street intersection with Erie doesn’t align with the Nott Street intersection with Erie, which causes lane confusion and traffic to move slower as it crosses.
In addition, he said, there has been significant development near the intersection, and there will be even more once the old American Locomotive Company site is redeveloped. With a new Golub Corp. headquarters just up the road, the intersection has been getting more congested.
The city contracted with Barton & Loguidice earlier this year to come up with designs that would increase the intersection’s efficiency, and they came up with four options that will be presented at next week’s meeting.
The first option is the simplest and involves re-striping turn lanes and changing the traffic signals at the intersection. The second option would also do this, but also reconstruct part of Front Street so it better aligns with Nott Street. This would allow more traffic to move at the same signal and eliminate some of the congestion that currently occurs there.
“The signals operate in phases,” said Wallin. “Because Nott Street is not perfectly aligned on the other side of Erie, there’s this offset. Front Street is a glorified driveway into the Alco site, and it’s not timed the same as Nott Street, so you have to wait for multiple signals to go through, and that reduces the efficiency of that intersection.”
Another option is to install a roundabout at the intersection with four exits: one onto Erie Boulevard toward downtown Schenectady, one onto Erie Boulevard toward Glenville, one onto Front Street and one onto Nott Street. If the city goes with this option, it would be the first roundabout within city limits.
A fourth option — and also the least likely, according to Wallin — would be to install a jughandle at the intersection. This is a type of ramp or road that forces all traffic to make a left turn from the right side of the road. The setup is popular in New Jersey, where signs often say “All turns from right lane.”
“You see it in other parts of the country,” said Tom Baird, senior managing engineer at Barton & Loguidice’s Albany office. “It would eliminate all turning conflicts at an intersection. It has a very high capacity and functions very well for heavy traffic. [Erie and Nott] may not be the right intersection for it, but part of our process is to look at many options, and sometimes the final plan you come up with is a hybrid of several different ideas. We take a ‘No idea is a bad idea’ approach.”
Wallin said he expects the last two options to get plenty of feedback, since roundabouts usually generate a lot of public interest and jughandles are all but unknown in this area of the state.
The city applied for a mix of funding for the project in 2007, but it was postponed because of cutbacks in federal funding, said Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen.
The project budget is about $2.6 million, with the Federal Highway Administration funding 80 percent, the state Department of Transportation funding 15 percent and the city paying the final 5 percent of the cost.
Officials hope to wrap up the design process this year, after hearing from the public, and start construction next year.