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Roundabout woes

Roundabout foes plan rally in Malta

Neighborhood ‘fit,’ safety among concerns

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
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Roundabout woes


The roundabout that links Round Lake Road with the Round Lake bypass is shown. More roundabouts could be coming to Malta.
The roundabout that links Round Lake Road with the Round Lake bypass is shown. More roundabouts could be coming to Malta.

— Plans for two new roundabouts just west of Northway Exit 11 remain controversial, even as the town moves forward with the process.

Residents opposed to their construction on Round Lake Road will rally Saturday morning, ahead of an eminent domain hearing the town will hold Monday night.

The concerned citizens, calling themselves My Malta NY, will turn out Saturday at the Hannaford Plaza, near where the two roundabouts have been proposed.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing at 6:55 p.m. Monday at Town Hall on taking land — by eminent domain, if necessary — for roundabouts at Raylinsky-Ruhle roads and at Chango Drive.

Elwood Sloat, one of the leaders of the opposition, said the group will speak at the hearing, but its concerns continue to extend beyond the eminent domain issue.

“To me, they have not proven they will be safe roundabouts, and it just does not fit in the neighborhood,” said Sloat, a retired state police major.

The roundabouts are being proposed as part of a $6 million project to increase the capacity of Round Lake Road because of growing traffic, particularly between new housing developments in Ballston and the Northway. Between 12,000 and 15,000 vehicles a day now use that road, figures that are expected to grow 30 percent in the next decade. Wider shoulders for bicycles and pedestrian paths and sidewalks are also part of the plan.

Many residents in the southern part of town have strenuously opposed the roundabouts — tight-radius traffic circles — since the idea was first broached nearly three years ago. Malta already has more than a dozen roundabouts elsewhere in town.

The opponents contend that construction of traffic light-controlled intersections with new turn lanes would be safer for pedestrians crossing the road than roundabouts.

Both alternatives remain under review, though the Town Board voted 4-1 in December to follow its engineers’ recommendation and declare roundabouts the “preferred alternative.”

The neighborhood concerns focus in particular on children and senior citizens, who opponents said walk in the area because of the Hannaford, a Stewart’s shop and other commercial destinations.

Supporters of roundabouts say they are safer for drivers — in accidents the severity of injuries is much less than at a traditional intersections — and will be designed with pedestrian safety features.

Town Supervisor Paul Sausville said the town is committed to the roundabout plan.

“All the feedback we have and analysis we are able to perform show they are the safest solution for youngsters, for pedestrians and cyclists, and for motorists,” he said.

Two engineering firms that have studied the intersections recommended roundabouts as the best alternative, as did the state Department of Transportation, Sausville said.

“They are in the public interest and at the end of the day when they’re built everyone will see how safe and attractive they are,” Sausville said.

The nearness of entrances to a Stewart’s shop means the plan will have to deviate from standard roundabout designs, with shorter approach angles and smaller mid-road pedestrian islands.

Sloat said that’s a significant issue. “I am totally convinced the road needs lights, because roundabouts cannot be built to standards,” he said.

No vote on eminent domain is expected Monday night, though the Town Board will vote on declaring itself lead agency for the final environmental review.

Either option would require the town permanently taking private land, but traffic signals would require taking pieces of only four properties, while the roundabouts would require taking from seven properties, one of them residential. In all cases, according to Sausville, what is being sought are just strips of land off larger parcels.

Eminent domain law allows government to take private property against an owner’s will for a greater public good, with a court determining the compensation to be paid to the landowner. The town won’t use eminent domain if voluntary agreements can be reached.

Town officials want to start construction of the road improvements this year, fearing that otherwise the town will lose $4.75 million in federal transportation funding already assigned to the project.

The opposition rally will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday.

 
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