A new signal on Erie Boulevard has some drivers concerned, but city officials said traffic should continue to flow just fine.
An accident Thursday evening on Maple Avenue led to a traffic jam on Erie Boulevard and surrounding streets, officials said. The closure of Maple Avenue, located just across Freemans Bridge Road, on the west side of the Mohawk River, caused cars to clog Erie Boulevard all the way to the roundabout at the intersection with Nott Street and up Nott Street all the way to Ellis Hospital at around 6 p.m.
The Thursday crash on Maple Avenue snapped a utility pole, dropping a power line onto the road and closing it to traffic until Friday afternoon. Because the signal at the intersection of Maple and Freemans Bridge Road was never turned to flashing red, officials said it caused a backup over the bridge, onto Erie Boulevard and into surrounding streets.
Some drivers took to social media to express frustration and pointed to the newly installed traffic light at the intersection of Erie Boulevard, Mohawk Harbor Way and Maxon Road as a potential cause. The light is about 1,300 feet north of the Nott Street roundabout intersection.
However, the new signal wasn’t the problem, said City Engineer Chris Wallin.
“There isn’t any concern about how the signal affects the functionality of the roundabout,” he said. “We’re hoping it actually improves it by introducing breaks.”
A larger area of concern, he said, is the backup that can happen along Erie Boulevard at Union, Liberty and State streets, where the lights aren’t timed as efficiently. That’s more of a focus for the city, he said, because that’s where they actually have an issue.
So far, Wallin said, the traffic light and roundabout have functioned well together. The light only changes if there are cars waiting on Maxon Road or Mohawk Harbor Way.
That portion of the road was also assessed by the New York State Department of Transportation, which maintains the road between the roundabout and the bridge, Wallin said. Once the casino and other projects on the Mohawk Harbor site open, the signal can be adjusted by the city to increase or decrease the time it remains green for traffic on Erie Boulevard, he said.
In addition, cars will be able to access the Mohawk Harbor site through the roundabout, creating multiple access and exit points to help disperse traffic, Wallin said.
“We have seen people concerned about it, but let it work, and then form your opinion about it,” Wallin said of the light. “If the concerns become a reality, there’s a lot of things we can adjust. It’s a newer signal, so we have a lot of options.”
Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels at 395-3113, [email protected] or @Brett_Samuels27 on Twitter.