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Malta roundabout proposals draw safety questions

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
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— Concerns that new roundabouts proposed on Round Lake Road would make the road more dangerous for pedestrians dominated a public hearing held Monday by the Malta Town Board.

“Safer means getting a light for pedestrians to cross,” said Murray Eitzmann of Round Lake Road, one of 14 speakers who commented on the town’s proposed Round Lake Road Corridor Plan.

A town-funded study has said roundabouts are the “preferred alternative” to handle traffic at the Raylinsky and Ruhle roads and Chango Drive intersections as traffic grows over the next decade.

More traffic is expected because of new residential development in Ballston, for which Round Lake Road will be the main access to the Northway at Exit 11.

Town officials — and their engineers — say roundabouts and conventional perpendicular intersections with traffic lights should both be studied further before a decision is made.

“Right now, we’re just looking for a concept,” said Paul Cummings, a planner with The Chazen Group, the town’s engineering firm.

The town has up to $4.75 million in federal funding available but could lose the money if construction doesn’t start by October 2014, said traffic engineer Don Adams of Creighton Manning Engineers of Albany.

But some residents think the discussion about roundabouts should stop now, saying that because they don’t bring traffic to a stop, they would make it more difficult for pedestrians to cross the road where a strip mall with a supermarket, drugstore and gas stations are surrounded by hundreds of homes.

Mark Spataro said drivers focus on traffic at the town’s 13 existing roundabouts and may not see pedestrians at the two new ones, where there may be more pedestrians than at the existing roundabouts. “If there was a pedestrian in my peripheral vision, I’m not sure I would notice,” he said. “All the attention has to be on what’s in front of you.”

But Cummings said setting crosswalks back from the roundabouts and providing traffic islands for pedestrian use would make them safe and the roundabouts themselves would slow traffic.

The plans also include sidewalks and wider shoulders for cyclists and other road users, he said. “All of these things together are intended to promote pedestrian access and safety.”

Town Supervisor Paul Sausville said he hopes the Town Board will make some decisions on the plan in January.

There are two decisions, he said: Whether to amend the town master plan to include plans for Round Lake Road improvements and whether to hire Chazen and Creighton Manning to do more detailed engineering studies on roundabouts and traffic light intersections at the two locations.

“We really get into the details at the next level,” said Adams.

 
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