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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 14, 2009

Guilderland Center residents, 100 strong, want sidewalks and safety

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A neighborhood planning meeting, on May 7, highlighted traffic safety, and pedestrian connections, as the top priorities for attention in Guilderland Center.

Within a three-year period, 47 reportable accidents had occurred in the hamlet, workshop participants learned. They also learned that Federal funds, totaling $780,000 for sidewalks, have been promised.

Over 100 residents of the hamlet attended the public meeting, orchestrated by Michael Welti, a consultant hired by the town; he’s the director of planning services for Behan Planning and Design.

“It was great to see that amount of turnout,” said Welti this week.

Behan Planning and Design is conducting a study to develop a neighborhood master plan for Guilderland Center, with help from Creighton Manning Engineering, and funding through the Capital District Transportation Committee. A grant with a value of $31,000 has been allocated for the study. A representative from the CDTC was also present at the meeting.

Over the course of two hours, Welti gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting what he, and fellow advisory committee members, view as the biggest problems. The attendees were then broken up into three groups, each with a leader from either Behan Planning and Design, or the CDTC, and given the opportunity to voice their opinions and suggestions about the changes they would like to see in their neighborhood.

It was overwhelmingly apparent that the residents of Guilderland Center love their hamlet, which includes a high school and bus garage; a shopping plaza and apartment complex; a town landfill, park and highway garage; and a massive industrial park. People want to see positive changes implemented, and negative aspects remedied. The general consensus among the three groups was that traffic safety needs to be addressed, and pedestrian sidewalks and paths need to be put in place.

Residents want to see speed reduced on Route 146, when it switches from a rural highway to a main street, and they would like to have the intersection of 146 and School Road examined, to see if there is a better alternative to the stoplight that hangs there now.  There was also some talk about the truck traffic on Route 146 in the area of the hamlet, since there is only one entrance to the Northeastern Industrial Park.

The intersection of Route 146 and School Road is a busy one, and traffic stalls there at certain times during the day, specifically the morning and evening commutes, and at the start and end of the school day. Residents feel the stoplight does not contribute to safety, because it is a tight turn onto School Road, and there is a right-turn only lane leading into the plaza across from the gas station.

The right-turn only lane creates dangerous situations when drivers wanting to go straight use the right-hand lane to get around cars turning left, residents said. According to statistics provided by Welti at the meeting, there were 12 reportable accidents at that particular intersection between 2005 and 2008.

Other intersections in Guilderland Center that warrant traffic studies are between Route 146 and Van Buren, where four accidents have occurred, in the same time period, and at School Road and Depot Road, where five accidents have occurred.

Most of the meeting attendees agreed that Guilderland Center was self-sufficient, in that it contains most of the amenities people might need, within walking distance. However, the proper pedestrian connections are not available for people to walk safely to and from the post office, deli, grocery store, and more.

There are some sidewalks, residents said, but they stop short of connecting pedestrians to the places they wish to walk. Walking on the shoulder of the road does not feel safe, because of the heavy traffic, they said. The crosswalks are hard to traverse because of the excessive speed of the vehicles on the roads, and the short period of time that the stoplights allow for crossing, residents said.

Supervisor Kenneth Runion stood up at the meeting and said that Guilderland Center will receive $780,000 from the federal government’s Transportation Improvement Project fund in the near future, specifically for installing sidewalks.

Donald Csaposs, Guilderland’s grant writer, told The Enterprise this week that the grant was applied for and approved several years ago, and it is just a matter of waiting for the money to be released. The town is in a position right now where it could hire an engineer to analyze the best sidewalk plan, he said, but the town will wait until the neighborhood planning study is finished.

“It makes more sense to wait and see how the sidewalks will fit into the general scheme of changes,” said Csaposs. “We really want the people who live in Guilderland Center to reap the greatest benefit from the funding we have available.”

There were no real surprise requests from the residents at the meeting, said Welti. “But we learned more about the nature and details of the issues, and heard interesting thoughts about possible solutions,” he said.

Other than traffic safety and sidewalks, Welti said, future land use, not discussed at the meeting, will receive priority attention. Because Guilderland Center is such a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial areas, Welti said he wants to work with the town to understand the potential for future land use, in a way that would benefit the community.

The study advisory committee will meet again in June, and a few more times over the summer, said Welti. There is also technical work to be done, he said, noting that Creighton Manning is on board to look at various traffic issues, like the intersections.

There will be another public meeting held in the fall, where the committee will present the residents with the final conclusions of the study.

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