More than 30 Rotterdam residents attended the first of what will be several public work sessions in Rotterdam Junction on Wednesday, Dec. 6, to voice concerns about traffic on Route 5S, an unsafe bike crossing, and other issues in regard to a land use and transportation study of an area south of Thruway Exit 26.
What we decide to do here is really going to shape what happens in the future, said Town Planner Peter Commenzo, who reminded the crowd that the project was still in its earliest phase.
The study area consists of a mix of commercial, residential, industrial use and undeveloped land from the Interstate 890 exit to the intersection of Mabie Lane at Route 5S. According to Wilbur Smith Associates, the transportation and infrastructure consulting firm hired to study the area, 355 acres of the undeveloped land in the area could be developed, especially after an extension of public water to Rotterdam Junction in 2004. Potentially, the area could hold approximately 165 residential units and 1.75 million square feet of industrial use, said Jim Donovan, a senior landscape architect leading the project.
With the assistance of funding from the Capital District Transportation Committee, Rotterdam retained Wilbur Smith Associates to help refine the town’s vision of increased development.
`We want to hear what you, the residents, think about how this land should be used,` said Donovan. `That’s why we’re having this meeting here in Rotterdam Junction.`
The reactions to Donovan’s question were mixed.
`Most of Rotterdam is developed already,` said Brian Slezak, a Rotterdam Junction resident. `The western end, where I live, is a pristine, cultural and historical part of town, and the planners should shed light on that. There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing to this area.`
Others were more open to future development, but wanted some sort of assurance by planners that Rotterdam Junction residents would have more say than people living in other parts of the town.
`It’s important that residents get involved in this discussion, even something as preliminary as tonight,` said Jim Carangelo, a firefighter in Rotterdam Junction. `But, as things move along, I think the town needs to weigh what residents say should happen here more than people that don’t live here. They also need to do a better job making people aware of these meetings.`
Those that attended the open meeting at the Rotterdam Junction Fire Department learned about a traffic study on Route 5S. According to Wilbur Smith Associates, the road could comfortably hold more than twice the traffic it currently does, which bodes well for increased development. However, if the entirety of undeveloped roadside land were developed, traffic problems would emerge, said Donovan.
The study also identified potential issues with traffic speed and village speed limits. In stretches of Route 5S with 40 mile-per-hour speed limits, 50 percent of vehicles exceeded the speed limit, and in stretches where the limit increases to 55 miles-per-hour, 25 percent of motorists were observed speeding. This is a cause of major concern for residents, and especially for users of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.
Cyclist Fred Thomson, of Niskayuna, is a member of Friends of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail. His close friend Allan Fairbanks was killed as a result of injuries sustained when he was struck by a car while crossing Route 5S.
`Having a shared roadway is my major concern, whether that means posting more visible signs or installing a light,` said Thompson. According to Thompson, the bike crossing is poorly marked and the visibility for both riders and cyclists is dangerous.
According to Commenzo, before anything can change, the study has to be seen to its completion. Then the town can start looking into the possibilities of rezoning, changing speed limits, and future water usage.
`After the study is complete it will be presented to the town board, and it will be up to them to say if we will rezone,` said Commenzo.
A second public work session will be held in January, said Commenzo.“