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Northway airport ramp to open ahead of schedule

Northway airport ramp to open ahead of schedule

Ramps to be designated Exit 3, the long missing link
Northway airport ramp to open ahead of schedule
A rendering of the plan for the new Northway Exit 3 interchange in Colonie, looking northbound.
Photographer: Image provided

COLONIE — The lost city of Atlantis. Blackbeard’s treasure. The elephant graveyard. Amelia Earhart and/or her airplane. Northway Exit 3.

Cross that last item off the list of things that have been impossible to find over the years.

State officials on Tuesday announced that not only will the new airport connector in Colonie be completed early, it will be designated Exit 3 — just what planners had anticipated more than a half-century ago, when they built Exit 2 and Exit 4 on either end of the Wolf Road. 

Someday, they thought, a direct link to Albany County Airport would be added, and it would be Exit 3. 

But the costly dream languished on transportation planners’ wishlists for decades, with multiple concepts never getting off the drawing board. Motorists unfamiliar with the area might wonder what had become of that third exit; locals might find Exit 3 useful as a punchline or trivial factoid they could share in conversation.

When work began last year on the $50 million project now in full swing off Wolf Road and Albany Shaker Road, transportation planners initially said the new entrance would not be called Exit 3 when it opened in 2020.

On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the work would be completed in late 2019. The changes are expected to not only shave a few minutes off the drive to the airport but to ease sometimes-severe traffic congestion where Wolf, Old Wolf and Albany-Shaker roads come together in close proximity to four existing Northway ramps.

An estimated 40,000 vehicles per day use Northway Exit 4 and an estimated 102,000 a day travel on Albany-Shaker Road at the Northway.

It’s hoped that the rate of vehicle crashes will decrease, as well.

The centerpiece is a new flyover-type bridge that will whisk northbound motorists over the Northway and past the traffic hot spot. A smaller ground-level ramp will lead motorists onto the southbound side.

These will be Exit 3. 

Other changes aren’t as large in scale but are expected to make important contributions all the same: 

  • A new Exit 4 on the southbound side of the Northway will provide better access to Old Wolf Road.
  • Albany Shaker Road is being widened between Wolf and Meeting House roads.
  • A new direct on-ramp to the southbound Northway from Route 155 at Exit 5 will eliminate the need for the existing off-ramp on the southbound side.
  • The on-ramp at the north end of Wolf Road will be extended all the way north to Exit 5.

Meanwhile, Albany International Airport is undergoing $54.6 million worth of terminal and parking upgrades, $22 million of it funded by the state, the rest by the Airport Authority and federal government. The state contribution comes from a pot of $200 million that Cuomo sought and secured in the 2017 state budget for airport revitalization work across upstate New York.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a news release Tuesday that the investment would pay dividends.

“These additions and improvements to Albany International Airport will mitigate traffic and enhance the overall travel experience,” she said. “The new Exit 3 will provide direct access to the airport and is part of modernization plans that also include a new parking garage and enhancements to the terminal. This project will increase tourism in the area, attracting more visitors and businesses, and further strengthen the economy of the Capital Region.”

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