Malta board accepts plan that includes more traffic circles

Wednesday, January 9, 2013
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Vehicles roll through a roundabout at Northway Exit 12 in Malta in February 2012.
Vehicles roll through a roundabout at Northway Exit 12 in Malta in February 2012.

— A divided Town Board has adopted a plan that lays the groundwork for two new roundabouts to be built on Round Lake Road west of the Northway.

The board on Monday adopted the Exit 11 Mini-Master Plan Comprehensive Plan by a vote of 4-1, after rejecting an amendment that would have weakened the plan’s support for the roundabouts.

The plan, which comes after more than a year of study, says roundabouts are the “preferred alternative” to address the impact of traffic growth at the Raylinsky-Ruhle roads and Chango Drive intersections.

In draft, the plan drew a significant amount of opposition from area residents, especially those with pedestrian safety concerns. Some 265 people signed a petition opposing the roundabout proposal and calling for more study.

“They shouldn’t have made a decision without all the facts,” said Elwood Sloat, a recently retired state police major who believes traffic lights would be safer for pedestrians.

Despite adopting the plan with its roundabout recommendations, Town Board members said other options will continue to receive study. The town already has 13 roundabouts, including five located on Route 67 around Northway Exit 12 and three along Route 9.

“The whole Town Board is committed to a corridor that is safe for everyone, and whatever option we adopt will have safety as a primary consideration,” said Councilman Peter Klotz.

More traffic is expected along the one-mile Round Lake Road corridor because of new residential development in Ballston, as well as development in Malta. Round Lake Road is the main access route to the Northway at Exit 11.

With the plan adopted, the next step is expected to be a more detailed engineering evaluation of whether roundabouts or lights would be better at the two locations.

“I’m not ready to say roundabouts are the solution,” said town Supervisor Paul Sausville, who nevertheless supported the plan after an amendment failed.

He said the master plan includes much more than the roundabouts, with plans for a full street reconstruction to better accommodate bicycles, pedestrians and other nonmotorized road users.

The town has up to $4.75 million in federal funding available for Round Lake Road reconstruction, but could lose the money if construction doesn’t start by October 2014. Last week, the town also got another a $250,000 federal Safe Routes to School grant that will pay for sidewalks and crosswalks as part of the project.

Councilman John Hartzell voted against adopting the plan. His proposed amendment, which would have changed the final recommendation to neutrality on the traffic light-roundabout issue, failed by a vote of 3-2. He and Sausville supported the amendment, while Klotz and councilwomen Maggi Ruisi and Tara Thomas opposed it.

Ruisi, who chaired the Exit 11 study committee and lives in the neighborhood, defended the recommendation.

“I can say that our committee took safety into consideration first and foremost,” she said. “We looked at safety reports from around the world that show that single-lane roundabouts are the safest alternative.” Single-lane roundabouts, she said, shouldn’t be confused with double-line roundabouts like those at Exit 12, which she acknowledged can be confusing and hazardous. The Round Lake Road roundabouts would be single-lane.

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January 9, 2013
7 a.m.
Disnydad says...

As a Malta resident I am in favor of the single lane roundabouts. I have found the double lane roundabouts confuse many motorists as to which lane they should be in and I have even seen State Troopers and Sheriff Deputies use the wrong lanes in those double lane roundabouts quite often. One excellent attribute is during power failures, the roundabouts have no issues with backed up traffice that you see at the intersections controlled by traffic lights.

January 9, 2013
7:27 a.m.
manjoe says...

Congratulations. A decision based on reason instead of emotion. That doesn't happen very often in NYS local government.

January 9, 2013
8:35 a.m.
newyorker65 says...

I heard a story from someone who took driving lessons years ago... the first time out, the trainer took him to the Latham Circle and said if you can master a traffic circle, you can drive anywhere! So maybe traffic circles are good things in that they will help people navigate the roadways better. Let's hope, 'cause the driving habits today are just awful!

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