Malta board slates hearing on 2 new roundabouts
MALTA The Town Board will hold a public hearing Dec. 3 on a controversial plan that could include construction of two new roundabouts on Round Lake Road west of the Northway.
The draft Round Lake Road Corridor Plan has generated a significant amount of public opposition to the proposed roundabouts, including a petition that now has 251 signatures.
Opponents of roundabouts at Round Lake Road’s intersections with Raylinsky-Ruhle roads and Chango Drive believe they wouldn’t be safe, particularly for pedestrians.
“I have not been able to find any pedestrian accidents in the last 60 years,” said resident Elwood Sloat. “How are you going to reduce zero?”
But representatives of The Chazen Group and Creighton Manning, the engineering firms that did the $36,000 planning study, defended roundabouts as the preferred way to handle growing traffic on the road, which is the main access to Northway Exit 11. The co-chairwoman of a citizen study committee also defended the recommendation.
“I live on Ruhle Road South. I would not put my name on this if I did not think it was safe,” said Councilwoman Maggi Ruisi, co-chair of the Round Lake Road Mini-Master Plan Committee, which has been working on the plan for more than a year.
While the engineers say the roundabouts are the “preferred alternative,” they have also developed plans for improved conventional intersections, widened to allow turn lanes.
The town already has 13 roundabouts built over in the past six years, including the series of five around Northway Exit 12. They remain a controversial topic. At least initially, the first roundabouts increased the rate of “fender-bender” accidents, but fewer accidents involved injuries.
The Town Board will hold a public hearing on the plan at 6:50 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at town hall. From there, the board will decide whether to develop preliminary engineering designs, which will include better cost estimates and estimate land acquisition needs.
The town has up to $4.75 million available for road improvements, from federal funds tied to traffic impacts of the Luther Forest Technology Campus. Roughly $1 million would need to be raised as a local share, too.
Don Adams, a traffic engineer with Creighton Manning, said the physical design of roundabouts is intended to slow drivers down, which will improve safety. The proposed street plan also includes crosswalks, sidewalks and bicycle lanes in the reconstructed road.
It’s all intended as a response to traffic growth.
Because of residential development in Ballston and industrial and business development in Malta, Halfmoon and Stillwater, the engineers are predicting 30 percent growth in traffic on Round Lake Road over the next 10 years.
“That’s a lot,” said Paul Cummings, a planner with The Chazen Group. “Those intersections are going to get worse and worse, in terms of backups and delays.”
Currently, about 7,000 vehicles a day use Round Lake Road at Chango Drive, which accesses a shopping center, elementary school and some large residential developments.
Another 13,000 vehicles a day use it daily on the short stretch between Raylinsky and Ruhle, both of which access major housing developments, and Exit 11.
According to Sloat, there’s been only one minor accident at the Chango intersection in the last three years, and 10 accidents — only one with an injury — at the Raylinsky intersection.
“These are the best intersections you can have from safety,” he said. “I have a hard time understanding why you would want to change them.”
Resident Kathy Eitzmann said pedestrians and bicyclists safely use the road now, and traffic isn’t as bad as statistics make it seem.
“There’s really only two hours a day when there’s a lot of traffic, one in the morning and one in evening,” Eitzmann said.
Town officials said they understand residents’ concerns, and want more proof that roundabouts are the best traffic solution before they decide to go forward.
“I want them to be safe. Those are acute and genuine concerns,” said Councilman John Hartzell.