The city will apply for federal funding to replace the traffic lights where Geyser Road meets Route 50 next to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, so that the intersection can better handle heavy truck traffic.
The Saratoga Springs City Council last week approved applying for a $200,000 transportation grant to pay for a new light system that would help manage the truck traffic coming from the Grande Industrial Park, which is off Geyser.
If the grant is awarded, city officials hope the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency will pick the $40,000 local share, but the city has yet to officially approach the IDA.
Under the proposal, the traffic lights would be upgraded to include an arrow for left-turn movements from Geyser Road to Route 50. New lights would also better accommodate pedestrian activity that occurs at the intersection, especially during SPAC concerts.
The improvements will be among the recommendations of a traffic study currently being completed by the city, using funding from the IDA.
Previous studies have shown the majority of vehicles going east on Geyser make a left turn onto Route 50, and that severe backups there are common during peak travel hours.
“That’s been a very problematic area of the city for a long time, and I’m looking forward to those improvements,” Mayor Joanne Yepsen said.
The IDA agreed in 2012 to pay for the $44,000 traffic study of the intersection, which is being done by engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen Inc. of Albany.
Traffic has been increasing there for years — especially big-rig trucks using Geyser Road. Hundreds of trucks from the industrial park mix with thousands of daily commuter vehicles.
Most of the trucks are from companies that were encouraged to move into the Grande park with IDA incentives.
In addition to the traffic light upgrades, the study is looking at the feasibility of widening Geyser to allow for a left-hand turn lane. The total cost of improvements could exceed $1 million, IDA officials have been told.
No source of funding has been identified for the total project, but city Planning and Economic Development Director Bradley Birge told the council there’s an opportunity to get money for the traffic lights now.
The intersection — where two-lane Geyser Road meets four-lane Route 50 — is at a main gateway to the city. Its fourth corner is the Avenue of the Pines entrance to Saratoga Spa State Park, and the intersection borders SPAC, which can draw tens of thousands to some of its Live Nations concerts.
There is also a long standing but unrealized plan to build a bike and pedestrian trail along Geyser, linking Geyser Crest to the rest of the city.
Almost all of the heavy trucks leaving the industrial park make a left turn toward downtown Saratoga Springs, part of an established route to the Northway — but a situation that can back up traffic on Geyser.
In addition, numerous buses use the intersection. The Saratoga Springs School District and Leonard Bus have storage and maintenance facilities at Grande, and the Capital District Transportation Authority owns land there for a future bus garage.
Geyser Road is a county-owned road that has seen limited improvements since the boom in industrial and residential development west of the city began in the 1960s and 1970s.
The IDA is paying for the study with $75,000 provided years ago by Quad/Graphics, the printing company with a major plant in the Grande park. The money is to be used for road improvements.