Task force seeking solutions to Northway Exit 20 traffic snarls

QUEENSBURY Traffic backups routinely occur in the vicinity of Northway Exit 20 and the Million-Dollar Half-Mile, and area regional transportation officials have launched a study to consider improvements whether its adding a new Northway exit, consolidating two existing ones or constructing a series of roundabouts. A task force has begun to examine traffic issues on the state Rte. 9/I-87 Northway corridor spanning from state Rte. 149 at the north to Great Escape theme park and Round Pond Rd. at the south, according to Aaron Frankenfeld of the Adirondack-Glens Falls Transportation Council. This is not a study for studys sake, he said. Well be determining things that can be accomplished, seek funds immediately and undertake actions that have a definite impact. An initial public meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4 at the Great Escape Lodge to hear about traffic problems and potential solutions, Frankenfeld said. This task force, which has met once already, is formally a traffic study advisory panel consisting of corridor property owners and business executives, state and regional transportation officials, and local government representatives. Whether its construction of traffic roundabouts, new lanes, traffic signalling changes, or new exits off the Northway perhaps one exclusively to service the Great Escape all ideas will be under consideration, Frankenfeld said. The group wants to hear not only about vehicle traffic problems and potential remedies,but also concerns of aesthetics, pedestrians and bicycle riders, and ideas for public transportation links. One of the important concerns is the impact of potential future development in the area, including the acreage that Warren County government is seeking to sell between Rte. 9 and the Northway. If the countys two plots there were turned into retail stores or strip malls, the traffic congestion would likely increase substantially, traffic engineers have warned. Creighton-Manning Engineering has been retained on a contract, for about $100,000, with the Adirondack-Glens Falls Transportation Council to assist with the study and determine feasibility of traffic congestion remedies, Frankenfeld said. This first public session Sept. 4 will focus on problems and potential solutions, and a second session in two months or so will be centered on remedies and Creighton-Mannings evaluation of the feasibility of various solutions. A third session will offer proposals and gauge public reaction to them, Frankenfeld said. The corridor has been problematic since the mid-1980s when developers realized that the heavy stream of traffic exiting the Northway and going East on Rte. 149 to Vermont was a prime source of shoppers. A series of strip malls and outlet centers were then developed from northbound Northway Exit 20 to Rte. 149, and the area has been congested since. The northbound and southbound Northway ramps at Exit 20 were designed in the 1960s by the state about a half-mile apart, confounding traffic issues, Frankenfeld said. Were trying to figure out why that happened, and whether theres now a benefit to aligning them, he said Monday. All solutions for the corridor will be determined with cost-benefit ratios in mind, and the easy, inexpensive remedies will have top priority for implementation as soon as possible, he said. We want to be done before winter is over, he said. Were aiming to cut the normal study time by half. One potential remedy at the top of the action list is consolidating commercial driveways and eliminate some curb-cuts to simplify traffic patterns and boost safety, Frankenfeld said. We want to hear from the public what the scope of problems are, so we can get to work and fix the problems, he said. Len Fosbrook of the Warren County Economic Development Corp. praised the idea. This is a very important study, given the every-increasing amount of traffic that goes through there, he said.

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