GLENVILLE — Residents' ideas to improve the look and safety of Freeman's Bridge Road range from constructing a roundabout at its intersection with Route 50 to finding a way to remove the railroad crossing that splits the corridor in half.
"You really need more lanes; you need sidewalks," said Jim Mastroianni, who owns the Glenville Sportsplex just south of the railroad crossing, during a planning workshop Wednesday at the Glenville Senior Center. Mastroianni has operated at the Freeman's Bridge Road location for nearly 25 years.
"It's a lot busier than it was. A lot needs to change," he said.
Mastroianni was among about 50 people who turned out for the workshop, which was part of the town's $50,000 Complete Streets study of what can be done to improve the corridor. A focus is being placed on making the road more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.
The goal of Wednesday's meeting was to gather ideas that can be studied and possibly included as recommendations in the final report, due around the end of the year. The study will make recommendations for short-term, mid-term and long-term improvements.
"Then the hard part starts: looking for funding," Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said. "We're trying to turn it from a pass-through into a destination."
Koetzle said he's heard suggestions for a roundabout at the five-cornered intersection with Route 50, Worden Road and an airport access road, and he's also heard the suggestion to remove the CP Rail crossing — both projects Koetzle acknowledged will cost millions of dollars and be "long-term."
The Freeman's Bridge Road corridor covers just over a mile between Route 50 and the Mohawk River. Most of the road frontage is commercial, anchored by a Wal-Mart and a Lowe's Home Improvement store, though there are also small businesses, convenience stores and franchise restaurants.
More than 12,000 vehicles per day use the northern part of the corridor — a number that is expected to grow due to the opening of Rivers Casino & Resort across the river in Schenectady. Below Maple Avenue, the road widens from two to four lanes, and around 24,000 vehicles per day use that section.
There's general agreement that the corridor doesn't look good now, and making it more bicycle-friendly is a good idea, especially given that the road leads to the river, where there's an off-road bike trail running west. Town officials also readily acknowledged the bike path also needs major upgrades.
"I think doing this is good. It can only enhance what we already have," said Pat Popolizio, who owns The Waters Edge Lighthouse Restaurant. "People are into exercise, and the idea of sidewalks and bike paths, I think, is great."
Accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians is the goal of the Complete Streets study, said Michael Franchini, executive director of the Capital District Transportation Committee, which is paying the majority of the study's cost. Federal and state policy encourages a complete streets approach during transportation planning.
"It's popular because people are trying to look at using the existing right-of-way for more than just vehicles," Franchini said, adding that more than 400 people had filled out an online survey about the corridor — what he called a "great response." People wishing to take the survey may do so at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FreemansGateway.
Judy Harris, who lives in Alplaus, noted that while the main road frontage is commercial, the number of homes, apartments and townhouses feeding into the road has increased in recent years.
"There's a lot of people who might want to bike," she said. "It's always congested, and you're going to add more."
Kurt Semon, a member of the Glenville Planning and Zoning Commission, formerly lived in Amsterdam and was a member of the Amsterdam Town Board when a major reconstruction of state Route 30 was planned and then built nearly a decade ago. He said the improvements included in that work contributed to the growth of commercial development north of the city.
"Business can thrive when you have a much-improved road network," Semon said. "Considering that the area has been neglected for decades, I think there's a lot of hope."
Katherine Ember, founding principal of study consultants Planning4Places, of Niskayuna, said there will be another public meeting in the fall and a later public presentation to the Town Board.
Further information on the project is available online at freemansgateway.com.