The state Department of Transportation is planning a major reconstruction of busy Northway Exit 4, starting with replacing the two bridges carrying the interstate over Albany-Shaker Road.
A public hearing on the $14.5 million bridge replacement project will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Sand Creek Middle School, 329 Sand Creek Road. DOT engineers will be available starting at 6 p.m. to answer questions.
The hearing will also include discussion of a much more ambitious project — the $34 million reconstruction of Exit 4 to improve access to the Albany International Airport and Wolf Road, though that phase of work doesn’t yet have funding.
“The airport is an economic driver, and better access to that is a huge driver of this,” said DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani.
When the Northway was first designed, there were plans for an Exit 3 that would go directly to the airport, but it was never built. Airport officials have been pushing in recent years for improved access to the interstate and trying to line up funding for improvements.
But the bridge work will come first, and should begin as soon as this summer, though work will extend into late 2015.
The main reason to replace them is their age. The bridges were built in 1959, and currently carry more than 113,000 vehicles daily over Albany-Shaker Road.
“They’ve gotten to the point where they need to be replaced. They’re deteriorating,” Viggiani said.
During construction, full traffic will be maintained on both the Northway and on Albany-Shaker Road. Viggiani said the bridges will both be widened so that three lanes of traffic can continue, even as construction is under way on parts of the bridge. A similar process was used when the bridges over Central Avenue were replaced, Viggiani said.
The second phase of work would totally redesign and reconstruct Exit 4, eliminating the bottlenecks that now form around the exit.
Both northbound and southbound traffic exiting the Northway would be directed on new ramps to a new intersection with Albany-Shaker Road that would be built just west of The Desmond. The current southbound exit ramp onto two-lane Old Wolf Road would be eliminated, and a new fly-over ramp would be built for northbound traffic headed toward the airport, carrying it over the Northway. The existing northbound exit would remain, but would be for right turns-only onto Wolf Road.
The exit would reduce travel time from the Northway to the airport, but should also make it easier to access the commercial corridor on Wolf Road, DOT officials said.
An average of nearly 33,000 vehicles a day use Albany-Shaker Road where it goes underneath the Northway bridges, according to the draft environmental impact statement. Frustrating rush-hour backups are routine.
If the estimated $34 million in funding becomes available, that work would begin in 2019 and conclude in 2021, DOT officials said.
The draft environmental impact statement is available for review at DOT’s offices at 50 Wolf Road in Colonie, or online at www.dot.ny.gov/i87exit4.
Written comments may also be sent to project manager John Masi, at DOT Region 1 Design, 50 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12232, or submitted by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.