Traffic volume is not enough to widen Route 149 to Vermont

Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Monday, June 4, 2007

Q: My wife and I travel on Route 149 from Northway Exit 20 to Vermont several times a month. The route is heavily traveled, carries many large trucks and can be quite dangerous, especially in the winter. Has the state Department of Transportation ever considered building a four-lane divided highway from the Northway near Glens Falls to connect with the four-lane divided road at the Vermont border?


Not only would it be a convenience for people like us, but it would facilitate commercial travel between Glens Falls and central Vermont.


The state recently improved a section of Route 149 but did not widen or straighten it. This seems to have been a waste of precious DOT funds.


- Robert Capone, Clifton Park





A: It's rare to see lanes added to New York roads these days, and when that happens, it's usually because there's more traffic than the road can handle.


"While Route 149 is an important commercial and recreational corridor between New York and Vermont, the traffic volumes are not high enough to justify a four-lane divided highway," said DOT spokesman Peter Van Keuren.


"In addition, widening to four lanes would thoroughly change the character of the communities that Route 149 passes through and have major impacts on the people and businesses who live along the highway," he said. "Although I have no number, significant amounts of property would need to be taken."


Though the section of road that was improved may not look obviously different than it did before, Van Keuren filled us in on some subtle changes you may not be noticing.


"Route 149 does have a high level of truck traffic and, to address this, it was designed with different standards for hills, curves and shoulders in a project completed a few years ago from Route 9 to Martindale Road," he said.


Beginning next year, another project is planned from Martindale Road to the Washington County line.


"As done with the previous project, next year's project will widen the shoulders, flatten some hills and ease some of the curves, and make some site-specific improvements," Van Keuren said. "Left turn lanes will be installed on 149 at the Bay Road and Bridge Road intersections to help traffic operations."


It may provide some reassurance to know that DOT's accident statistics suggest the road isn't as dangerous as you think.


The average accident rate is 1.82 per million vehicle miles traveled, which is below the average of 2.81 for similar roads in New York. (Route 149 is classified as a Rural Principal Arterial Highway with free access.)


Q: Does the Thruway Authority intend to do any pavement restriping between Exits 22 and 24? The lane lines here are very badly faded and nearly invisible at night, particularly if it's raining.


- Allan Kronenberg, Albany





A: The Thruway Authority refreshes its lane lines every two years, said spokesman Patrick Noonan.


This portion was striped last spring and is scheduled again for spring 2008, he said.


Because of your inquiry, though, a member of the Albany Division maintenance crew did check out the area on a rainy night. Noonan said the crew member found that the lines appear sufficient.


"The striping in that area is safe and adequate for travel," Noonan said. "We didn't see any cause for concern."





Q: I appreciate the new traffic signals at Route 9 and Maxwell Road, especially the signals for traffic turning from Route 9 onto Maxwell Road.


During the day, however, the light for Maxwell Road westbound doesn't change all the time. I have waited three cycles before the light turns green. I have gone home at lunch time and waited a good 10 minutes for the light to change, and have been late getting back to work as a result. I usually make a right on red and then turn around.


Can this be adjusted?


- Rebecca Almstead,


Colonie





A: The reason you encountered this problem probably qualifies as a quirk, and what DOT found when it took a look shows just how complex the network of equipment and electronics at an intersection can be.


When the signal system at the intersection was rebuilt recently, the apparatus installed included an overhead microwave detector. It was working fine.


The problem was that the contractor who installed it put the microwave in a position where Verizon phone lines partially obstructed the detector. The result was that vehicles approaching the intersection occasionally went undetected, said Department of Transportation spokesman Van Keuren.


A DOT signal crew was scheduled to visit the signal on Thursday and move the microwave to a location where it should more accurately detect vehicles, Van Keuren said.








"Getting There" is compiled by staff writer Cathy Woodruff. Do you have a question about transportation? Call 454-5020 or e-mail gettingthere@timesunion.com. Please include your name, town and telephone number.





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