Schenectady County public works personnel continue to gather feedback on a project designed to improve safety conditions at the intersection of Nott Street and Balltown Road in Niskayuna.
The project - in preliminary stages - sparked several comments from residents during a recent meeting of the town's Planning Board.
Last June, the Legislature approved $215,000 in financing for detailed design of road improvements that - if implemented - would slow and better manage traffic at the intersection.
The work may include installation of sidewalks on both sides of Nott Street as far west as Clifton Park Road, new crosswalks, improved lighting and other measures to slow traffic and reduce vehicle-pedestrian accidents.
The total estimated cost, mostly from federal funds, is $1.5 million. The Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority has agreed to contribute $250,000 toward the project costs.
Joe McQueen, director of public communications for Schenectady County, said nothing has been decided.
"The goal of the project is to basically improve the safety of that intersection for both traffic and pedestrians," McQueen said.
"As a federal program, there is a process we have to go through," McQueen said. "We have hired an engineering firm and the purpose of the engineering firm is to look at the intersection. They need to come up with three options that would be presented to the public for the county to choose from to implement the safety program."
McQueen said county officials met with business owners in November, and asked for feedback.
"We are continuing to receive that feedback," said McQueen, adding that another meeting will take place in late January or early February.
During the Planning Board's privilege of the floor session, people expressed concerns about safety near the Niskayuna Co-op, the largest business in a small strip on Nott Street.
Ray Colucciello Jr. of Valencia Road, said the section of Nott in front of the shopping strip - which includes Lange's Pharmacy, Niskayuna Specialty Wines & Liquors and Nott Street Office - a printing, copying and shipping business - has become a fast road.
Marina Franchild of Dean Street said the Planning Board and Town Board could help provide transparency for the project.
"People are very worried, people are very concerned," Franchild said. "People are feeling powerless, they don't know where to bring their concerns to."
Town Planner Laura Robertson said a preliminary concept includes angled parking in front of the co-op and other stores and relocation of the sole entrance to the parking lot across the street from the co-op in favor of an entrance located farther down Nott Street.
"It causes a lot of (traffic) stacking back into the intersection," Robertson said of the current parking lot entrance. "It's all safety related stuff they put in their concept."
Some merchants in the plaza are wary about the project.
"We're not jazzed about the construction at all," said Wendy Matern, assistant manager at Nott Street Office, "mainly because we've seen in other areas that when they've done construction like this - we're a small business, not a big box store - for our stores to endure even two or three months of construction is basically going to end a lot of our businesses. They're all small businesses, even the co-op is still a small-time store."
Anne Leonelli-Gallo, owner and president of Niskayuna Specialty Wines & Liquors, is all for safety improvement.
"There are constantly fender-benders with people backing up onto Nott Street," Leonelli-Gallo said. "It's definitely not a good situation. So, I feel something needs to be done to improve the safety so people are not backing up out into other cars and people slamming on their brakes, things like that."
She is concerned about maintaining the character - and charm - of the plaza.
"The double-edged sword is it's tough to back out, but people like to come shop here because it's easy to just pull right in," Leonelli-Gallo said.
The co-op is in.
"The Niskayuna Co-op fully supports measures that improve safety and access for our customers, staff, and community," said Sara Sharkey, president of the market's board of directors, in an email note.
Robertson stressed that alternatives to the concept must be offered to federal officials. "It's a very, very long process," she said, adding that a public hearing on the matter has not been scheduled yet.
McQueen said the three options eventually will be unveiled to the public.
"We're not even close to the end to determine what happens," McQueen added. "We are totally in the listening and comment phase right now."
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]