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Rexford Bridge may get 4th lane

Public concerns lead state to re-examine plan

Friday, May 30, 2014
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Traffic queues up at the Rexford Bridge at Balltown and Aqueduct roads in Niskayuna in this November 2013 photo.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Traffic queues up at the Rexford Bridge at Balltown and Aqueduct roads in Niskayuna in this November 2013 photo.

— They came, they heard, they’re adding a fourth lane.

The state Department of Transportation took local feedback into account and is now proposing to replace the two-lane Rexford Bridge between Schenectady and Saratoga counties with a four-lane bridge. The department’s previous plan for a three-lane bridge was met with skepticism by residents and commuters who believed three lanes would hardly be enough to ease congestion during rush hour.

“This is really in response to people’s concerns and points raised at two public hearings earlier this year,” said DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani. “We listened and took them into consideration and figured out a way to get that extra lane in there.”

The bridge replacement is part of a larger proposal to upgrade the notoriously clogged commute over the Mohawk River. On the Niskayuna side of the river, traffic lights at Balltown (Route 146) and Aqueduct roads would be replaced with a roundabout. On the Rexford side, the busy Route 146 intersection with Riverview Road would be widened to accommodate more lanes. A multi-use trail would be added to the corridor and the bridge, connecting Riverview Road with the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail. The bridge itself would be built immediately west of the existing span.

The expansion from two to four lanes would occur beyond just the bridge. The Route 146 corridor will switch to four lanes 450 feet north of Riverview Road and extend across the bridge to 50 feet south of Aqueduct Road, Viggiani said.

“We made some subtle changes to the roundabout, as well, to the east and west approaches, to make it more efficient,” he said.

The department has also scrapped a proposed closure of one of two access points from Main Street to Route 146 in Rexford.

They’re asking residents to come to a public information meeting next month to discuss the proposed changes. The meeting will be held June 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Rexford Fire Station at 1601 Route 146.

The three-lane bridge plan will be retained as a feasible alternative during the public comment period. Many of the tenets are the same, including the roundabout and widened intersection in Rexford.

Residents who turned out for two public meetings in January expressed concern, however, that three lanes (one northbound and two southbound) would do nothing to ease northbound traffic into Saratoga County. At the time, DOT project manager Richard Filkins said it wasn’t the bridge causing bottlenecks, but the intersections on either side of it.

Once comments on the new plan are received, one alternative will be chosen. At this point, there is no funding and no timetable for construction.

The Rexford Bridge opened in 1965 and now carries more than 22,000 vehicles each day. The department has wanted to replace it for more than a decade, as it nears the end of its designed 50-year lifespan. Viggiani said DOT officials are confident funding will materialize, which is why they’re sending the proposal through public comment now.

“We think either alternative will be competitive,” he said. “We want to have this idling and ready to go for the moment when funding becomes available.”

The three-lane bridge plan would cost about $22.8 million. The four-lane plan would come in around $24.1 million.

Comments about the project can be made in writing to the project manager, Filkins, at the New York State Department of Transportation, Region 1 Design, 50 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12232. Comments can also be emailed to Richard.filkins@dot.ny.gov.

 
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