GLENMONT — Town staff and Creighton Manning officials presented the chosen roundabout project design at an open house on Thursday, Nov. 14 at the Glenmont Elementary School.
At the open house around a dozen local residents perused several informational tables containing detailed design plans for the upcoming roundabout and sidewalk work, and they asked staff questions about them.
During a formal presentation, Creighton Manning Senior Project Engineer Stephan Godlewski spoke about the project’s overview; its progress so far planning-wise; having had discussions with to-be-affected stakeholders like nearby business owners, the trucking industry, local emergency services personnel, and the state Department of Transportation; the approach to the construction itself; and next steps.
This is a $4.9 million project which seeks to convert the existing four-way stoplight intersection — where Feura Bush and Glenmont roads converge with Route 9W — into a roundabout. It aims to lessen traffic congestion and the likelihood of fatal right-angle and head-on crashes, which have been common there.
The new roundabout would be complemented by short pedestrian crosswalks throughout with rectangular rapid-flashing beacons and 2,800 feet of new sidewalk to connect to Glenmont Elementary School and Vagele Lane.
Two public meetings had already been held in the last two years where the public were able to offer input on three potential designs to improve that intersection: keeping it as an improved stoplight intersection, a single-lane roundabout or a hybrid roundabout. These options were presented in a public workshop on Jan. 17 but Robert Leslie, the town’s Planning Division director, confirmed in June that the hybrid roundabout has since become the chosen design.
The project is overseen by the Planning Division, the state DOT and Creighton Manning, an Albany-based engineering firm. The chosen roundabout design is still subject to final revision though.
The chosen hybrid roundabout design features single-lane exits, double-lane entrances and a center island, the outer shell of which optimally allows bigger vehicles like trucks or emergency vehicles to drive onto if they need more space as they make their way through the roundabout.
The center island will also contain several features like landscaping, at least one flag pole and a stacked stone wall. Aesthetics aside, Godlewski said, “It’s actually a traffic-calming effect and if the driver can see too far away through the roundabout, they’re not as likely to slow down. The Town of Bethlehem is going to be responsible for maintaining anything that goes inside this island and the DOT, even if it’s their roads, will not maintain it.” He added that another objective of the center island is to limit the amount of maintenance the town would undertake like how not much planting would be there.
The project would affect several driveways, that link businesses to Route 9W, Feura Bush Road and Glenmont Road, where a few additional islands, mainly for the pedestrians’ safety, will be added between those driveways. Such affected driveways include those that serve Price Chopper, Chili’s Glenmont Centre Square, the Bethlehem Preschool, Sunoco and CVS.
The roundabout would also offer a convenient way for drivers, leaving those businesses via those driveways, to do a so-called U-turn so that they can get to their eventual destinations without worrying too much about oncoming traffic.
The islands around the roundabout and by the driveways also serve as physical barriers to discourage drivers from making left turns — from business-serving driveways and to drive away from the roundabout — which could otherwise disrupt traffic and endanger nearby pedestrians.
Godlewski said his team, the town and the state DOT have met with those business owners to raise awareness of the upcoming construction schedule and its approach to limit impact on their businesses, surrounding vehicular traffic and keep the public and construction workers safe.
For the new sidewalks, construction would be done during off-peak hours and there will be alternating one-way traffic. Such work would be done virtually anytime when it would not restrict traffic in the area.
For the roundabout, Godlewski said most of the work would take place at night to limit the impact on businesses and rush hour traffic. While lanes will be maintained at the intersection so vehicles can continue traveling through it during construction, select construction work will continue during the day where “there may be on traffic.” An example of needed daytime work is pouring concrete for the new sidewalks which is difficult to achieve at night.
During construction, residents can still access the businesses though and expect minimal impact on traffic during the day. Pedestrian routes and access will also be maintained, which Godlewski said is required, and there will be limited nighttime detours.
“The town’s goal is to minimize the short-term disruption to businesses during construction and how are we going to do that? They’re going to hire a professional communication specialist,” he said. This will help the town craft a communication plan for the project to communicate with the businesses, residents and construction workers, an outline of which could be replicated for similar future town projects.
It would also suggest how and when businesses should further communicate with their customers and staff regarding the construction timeframe and approach.
Looking ahead, a construction contract is expected to be awarded in winter 2020 with another public pre-construction meeting set sometime in the spring. Construction is scheduled also begin this spring and the roundabout is planned to open in the fall, with additional landscaping and final works set for spring 2021.
For more information, visit www.townofbethlehem.org/844/Glenmont-Roundabout-Project.