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What you need to know for 06/23/2017

New ramp will connect Albany airport to Northway

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New ramp will connect Albany airport to Northway

The new state budget includes $50 million to pay for construction of a traffic ramp that will direct
New ramp will connect Albany airport to Northway
A JetBlue airplane at Albany International Airport, Dec. 10, 2015.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

The new state budget includes $50 million to pay for construction of a traffic ramp that will directly connect the Northway to Albany International Airport.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the funding, which will pay for construction of an exit ramp serving both directions of the Northway just south of Albany-Shaker Road.

The ramp would loop behind the Desmond Albany Hotel and bring traffic onto Albany-Shaker Road near the airport entrance — a more direct link than the airport now has to the interstate.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we’re delighted to see it coming,” said Albany International Airport CEO John O’Donnell.

Airport and regional economic development officials have been pushing for the connection for many years, but funding has never been available.

People coming to the airport via the Northway now must use Exit 4 and travel through one or more traffic-light-controlled intersections to reach Albany-Shaker Road. People getting off the northbound lanes must use a congested section of Wolf Road.

“A majority of airports have direct links to an interstate, and this will put us in that category,” O’Donnell said.

About 1.3 million passengers flew out of Albany last year.

An Exit 3 that would have linked to the airport was planned in the Sand Creek Road area when the Northway was being designed in the 1950s, but it was never constructed.

The land west of the Desmond is already owned by the airport, and a required archaeological survey conducted last year cleared the land of any significant artifacts that might have prevented its use.

“The project has been advancing, but there was always the question about when the funding would come,” O’Donnell said. “We’re delighted.”

He said airport officials were aware of increased interest from Cuomo’s office and the state Department of Transportation, but didn’t know until after the budget passed that the money had been included in the final document.

The state DOT last year completed a $23 million replacement of the two Northway bridges over Albany-Shaker Road, and the new ramp has been viewed by DOT officials as a second phase of that project.

The Capital Region Chamber of Commerce issued a statement Monday praising the funding.

“This project has been a top priority of the chamber, and we’ve been a leading advocate,” chamber CEO Mark Eagan said.

“When completed, the revamped Exit 4 will not only improve public safety, it will reduce the all-too-familiar bottlenecks in the area and greatly enhance economic development opportunities throughout the region,” Eagan said.

U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, R-Amsterdam, state Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Albany, and Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, have been among the ramp’s supporters.

While O’Donnell said he hopes the funding means construction can start this year. DOT documents indicate construction may not start before 2019.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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