There’s no easy way to cross Ballston Avenue from the side streets running between Lincoln Avenue to the west and Hamilton Street to the east.
With two four-way intersections and a five-way junction, the quarter-mile stretch of the busy city thoroughfare — also known as Route 50 — was responsible for 42 accidents over a 42-month period recently gauged by city engineers. And while none of the accidents was considered very serious, the road’s track record suggested a marked need for improvement.
“There is a very high frequency,” said Tim Wales, the city’s engineer.
Contractors will begin work this spring on a $2.6 million project to overhaul the stretch of Ballston Avenue in order to bolster safety for both motorists and pedestrians. The project, funded mostly through the federal Transportation Improvement Program, will involve widening Ballston Avenue, eliminating two intersections, building a “pedestrian refuge” in the median, installing a new traffic signal and adding sidewalks on each side of the road.
“There is definitely a need,” said Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, the city Department of Public Works commissioner. “If for nothing else, for public safety.”
Last fall, Bast Hatfield Construction of Clifton Park was awarded a contract for the work, which is expected to cost $1.8 million. The remainder of the project cost will go toward engineering, according to city officials.
Such an undertaking will also come with temporary headaches. The project is expected to take upward of four months, during which time Ballston Avenue will be closed to all but local traffic.
A detour will redirect motorists along the Route 9 trucking route, which connects Ballston Avenue to South Broadway via Adelphi Street. City officials and contracted engineers realize the detour isn’t ideal, but wanted to wrap the project up before the summer season without spiking costs.
“By shutting the road down and using detours they can expedite the project,” Wales said.
The work will permanently close the southern terminus of Perry Street, creating a dead-end where the road now intersects with Ballston Avenue and possibly leaving space for a pocket park. Also being closed off is Union Street’s intersection with the south side of Ballston Avenue, which will create another dead-end.
The project will rework an unsightly triangle of asphalt surrounding a small cluster of buildings on the soon-to-be closed end of Union Street, Lincoln Avenue and Ballston Avenue to make the area more aesthetically pleasing. A new traffic signal is planned for Lincoln Avenue’s nearby intersection with Ballston Avenue, across from Price Chopper Plaza.
A small raised median near the CDTA bus stop on Union Street will serve as a “pedestrian refuge” for people using a new crosswalk across Ballston Avenue. From there, a striped median will extend east toward Hamilton Street, where several turn lanes will allow motorists to access businesses without tying up traffic along Ballston Avenue.
The project also includes adding trees, curbing and street lights along the stretch of roadway. The result should be a vastly improved entrance to the city, said Peter Faith, assistant vice president of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc, the Albany company contracted to do the engineering on the project.
“It’s an important gateway to the city,” he said.
About 95 percent of the project cost will come through federal funding. The city initially received $750,000 in federal aid to improve the stretch of road between Union Street and Hamilton Street. But the need to expand the project to Lincoln Street became apparent early on.
Scirocco said a federal review of the data collected helped the city secure the funding needed to include the second four-way intersection.
“It’s going to improve traffic flow, it’s going to improve pedestrian safety,” he said of the project. “It’s just an all-around common sense approach to making it safer”