Niskayuna, N.Y. — County leaders unveiled plans on Friday for the long-awaited safety improvement project on Nott Street near its intersection with Balltown Road in the Town of Niskayuna. The project is intended to enhance pedestrian and motorist safety, and upgrade street lighting.
In December of 2016, Schenectady County was awarded a federal grant from the Highway Safety Improvement Program of $1,303,000 for the design and construction of the safety improvements near the intersection of Nott Street and Balltown Road in the Town of Niskayuna. The Highway Safety Improvement Program is a core federal-aid program that provides funding for safety projects on any publicly owned roadway to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes. The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority pledged matching funds of $250,000 (total project funding is $1,553,000) to bring the project to fruition.
The County retained the engineering firm of MJ Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C. for the design phase of the project. During the preliminary design of this project in the spring of 2019, the County, with the assistance of consultants from MJ Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C., met with representatives from the affected businesses and held a public meeting Niskayuna Town Hall to present three potential design proposals for the project.
At the initial town meeting and during the month-long period to submit comments in writing, some of the concerns raised with the initial proposals were:
- Currently, motorists travel in excess of the posted speed limit through the corridor;
- How will the length of construction affect businesses?;
- Will accessibility be improved for persons with disabilities?;
- Will pedestrian safety be improved at crosswalks? How will motorists be made aware of pedestrians using crosswalks?;
- The proposed changes to parking spaces in front of the buildings will be less accessible with only one entrance and exit;
- A left turn lane should be added on Nott Street heading eastbound at the intersection with Balltown Road;
- It is not safe when motorists leaving existing parking spaces in front of the existing businesses back into through traffic and/or into passing pedestrians;
- Some residents felt that implementing any of the proposed changes would not improve safety. Therefore, these residents recommended that the “do nothing” alternative be chosen.
After careful consideration of the comments received from the affected business owners and the public, the engineering consultants provided the County with a recommended alternative which was presented to the leadership of the County, including the County Legislators from district 3 who represent the Town of Niskayuna. County Legislators Michelle Ostrelich, Sara Mae Pratt and Tom Constantine then presented the recommended alternative to the affected business owners and other local elected officials in an effort to reach consensus. After numerous meetings with the local parties, there were further design modifications made, and the project is ready to proceed to final design.
“After the public meeting, we recognized that the concerns of the public, and especially of the building and business owners, needed additional attention,” said County Legislature Michelle Ostrelich. “We extended the period for submission of public comments, and we decided to meet directly with the owners to get a better understanding of each of their business concerns. This project means a lot to Niskayuna and we wanted to move forward carefully and make sure everyone was heard and we had the most information to address questions and concerns.”
“It is very clear how much our residents care about this strip and the stores,” said County Legislator Tom Constantine. “It isn’t just a convenient place to shop. It’s a place where we run into our friends and our neighbors. It’s a place we feel connected to because the folks who work there are friendly and know us. We want to make it safer for our residents to walk, drive and park there. We want to make sure parents with strollers and residents with mobility issues feel safe getting there. The new sidewalks, safer crosswalks, better lighting, angled parking with curbs all do that.”
The final design proposal for the project, which will be considered by the County Legislature at its May meeting includes wide sidewalks on both sides of the street, removal of steps in the sidewalk closest to the buildings, angled parking with a raised curb to separate parked cars from traffic lanes, clear parking pattern requiring one-way entrance and forward-facing exit from the angled parking spots, an additional crosswalk as well as improved visibility for the crosswalks, island reconfiguration and relocation of the bus stop.
“Although construction won’t start until next spring, we need to finalize the design now,” said County Legislator Sara Mae Pratt. “We know it’s difficult to think about this project in the middle of the COVID-19 shut-down, but these improvements give us an opportunity to breath new life into the strip by making it easier and safer for our residents to shop there.”
The County believes that these additional modifications will improve the overall design of the project, and greatly enhance the pedestrian and motorist safety.
Niskayuna Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed commended the county efforts stating, “This strip is very special to our Town. I appreciate the cooperation that exists between the Town and County on this project.”
Town Council Member Rosemarie Perez Jaquith agreed adding, “I see all the hard work that has gone into getting funding and getting the input on the design from the community. I’m very pleased that this project addresses safety and walkability – the biggest priorities I’ve heard voiced by our residents.”
The County Legislature will vote at its May meeting to make a final SEQRA determination under Title 6 NYCRR Part 617 of the State Environmental Quality Review Act for the construction of the Nott Street project. After the final determination is made, the final design report will be submitted to NYSDOT with the County’s recommended alternative. NYSDOT will review the design report and will provide design approval to the County to complete the final design plans. Final design will progress through 2020 with construction in 2021.
View rendering of project here.
Erin M. Roberts
Director of Public Communications
Cell: (518) 723-0570