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Roundabout?

Officials eye options for Erie Blvd.-Nott St. intersection

Thursday, December 5, 2013
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Roundabout?


The intersection of Erie Boulevard and Nott Street in Schenectady Thursday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
The intersection of Erie Boulevard and Nott Street in Schenectady Thursday.

— Schenectady officials are holding a public meeting next week at which they will discuss four separate options — including a roundabout — aimed at smoothing traffic at the intersection of Nott Street and Erie Boulevard.

The public meeting will be held Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at College Park Hall, 450 Nott St.

Other options include re-striping lanes and changing traffic signals and putting in a style of ramp that’s popular in New Jersey.

“That intersection has what we call a low level of service,” said City Engineer Christopher Wallin. “It’s a non-efficient intersection. Erie Boulevard is substantially wide, it takes a lot of traffic, while Nott Street is skewed and doesn’t have sufficient capacity. So when you get near the railroad bridge before the intersection, Nott gets choked and traffic backs up.”

Wallin explained the intersection’s other failings. Nott Street has two lanes but three options for drivers at the intersection: left or right onto Erie or straight over Erie and onto Front Street. The street narrows under the bridge. The Front Street intersection with Erie doesn’t align with the Nott Street intersection with Erie, which causes lane confusion and traffic to move slower as it crosses.

In addition, he said, there has been significant development near the intersection, and there will be even more once the old American Locomotive Company site is redeveloped. With a new Golub Corp. headquarters just up the road, the intersection has been getting more congested.

The city contracted with Barton & Loguidice earlier this year to come up with designs that would increase the intersection’s efficiency, and they came up with four options that will be presented at next week’s meeting.

The first option is the simplest and involves re-striping turn lanes and changing the traffic signals at the intersection. The second option would also do this, but also reconstruct part of Front Street so it better aligns with Nott Street. This would allow more traffic to move at the same signal and eliminate some of the congestion that currently occurs there.

“The signals operate in phases,” said Wallin. “Because Nott Street is not perfectly aligned on the other side of Erie, there’s this offset. Front Street is a glorified driveway into the Alco site, and it’s not timed the same as Nott Street, so you have to wait for multiple signals to go through, and that reduces the efficiency of that intersection.”

Another option is to install a roundabout at the intersection with four exits: one onto Erie Boulevard toward downtown Schenectady, one onto Erie Boulevard toward Glenville, one onto Front Street and one onto Nott Street. If the city goes with this option, it would be the first roundabout within city limits.

A fourth option — and also the least likely, according to Wallin — would be to install a jughandle at the intersection. This is a type of ramp or road that forces all traffic to make a left turn from the right side of the road. The setup is popular in New Jersey, where signs often say “All turns from right lane.”

“You see it in other parts of the country,” said Tom Baird, senior managing engineer at Barton & Loguidice’s Albany office. “It would eliminate all turning conflicts at an intersection. It has a very high capacity and functions very well for heavy traffic. [Erie and Nott] may not be the right intersection for it, but part of our process is to look at many options, and sometimes the final plan you come up with is a hybrid of several different ideas. We take a ‘No idea is a bad idea’ approach.”

Wallin said he expects the last two options to get plenty of feedback, since roundabouts usually generate a lot of public interest and jughandles are all but unknown in this area of the state.

The city applied for a mix of funding for the project in 2007, but it was postponed because of cutbacks in federal funding, said Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen.

The project budget is about $2.6 million, with the Federal Highway Administration funding 80 percent, the state Department of Transportation funding 15 percent and the city paying the final 5 percent of the cost.

Officials hope to wrap up the design process this year, after hearing from the public, and start construction next year.

 
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comments

December 6, 2013
11:52 a.m.
lknussman says...

I drive through this intersection all the time and have never noticed a huge problem. It would be lovely though to not have construction going on constantly in that area! Between the work being done on Erie, State Street, the Scotia Bridge...it is near impossible to travel around Scotia and Schenectady without hitting some kind of construction jam up. I'm sure it will all be lovely when it is done but now they are talking about tearing up Erie/Nott/Front...geez.

December 6, 2013
12:11 p.m.
hodgkins.t says...

Roundabouts are the most efficient form of intersection. They save people time and they reduce carbon emissions, because people spend less time sitting at red lights.

December 6, 2013
4:16 p.m.
yuton says...

Some suggestions:
1. No "pavers"! They inevitably break, becoming ugly and dangerous while requiring expensive, time-consuming and inconvenient repairs. Station police in all public meetings about traffic and roadway matters, to arrest anyone who suggests pavers for any project, anywhere.
2. No roundabout! Whatever gains in efficiency can be claimed for them are erased by increased crashes. Adding constriction and lane changes to an already congested situation is asking for trouble.
3. Congestion on Erie Blvd. is very time-specific and preventable simply by staggering work-shift times at GE. Erie works fine except when too many drivers try to use it at the same time.

December 6, 2013
6:31 p.m.
ChuckD says...

Predictably for this area, it's all about the cars. The sorry state of affairs for those who want to walk or bike or use public transportation is the clearest sign that we are so stuck in the 20th century.
.
I'm for option 2. Roundabouts have become such a scourge in this area I have to be suspicious. "Jug handles"? Please, it's a boulevard, not a highway.

December 9, 2013
4:51 p.m.
hodgkins.t says...

roundabouts are more efficient for cars and trucks, but that constant movement is incompatible with a pedestrian friendly intersection. with the high density of residents, and its proximity to downtown and the river parks, planners need to ensure that pedestrians and bikers are a significant engineering consideration.

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