LOUDONVILLE – Despite some concerns about construction vehicle traffic, Siena College got the OK to begin preliminary work on the construction of a 47,700-square-foot addition to the Morrell Science Center at the Tuesday, March 21, Town of Colonie Planning Board meeting.
The Nobel Hall Science Center will include five lecture-style classrooms and 10 new laboratory-type classrooms for nursing, biology, chemistry and environmental science. The project is funded by a $35 million gift from MTX co-founders Das and Nipa Nobel, the largest in college’s history.
The addition will include a new pedestrian plaza and sidewalk, as well as three additional parking spaces in the existing parking lot, which will be part of the first phase of the project, according to Mark A. Frost, Siena Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management.
“We’re going to start the construction of the parking area May 15, the day after Commencement,” he said. “It will be finished before Labor Day weekend. The parking area will be done for the students.”
The work will include changes to the locations of parking area islands, improved crossing areas, and irrigated landscaping with new trees.
Planning Board members expressed concern about construction vehicles entering from both Middlefield Drive and Fiddlers Lane. At a prior meeting, some members said it could be potentially dangerous for students and faculty at the college during the school day to encounter incoming vehicles entering the campus from Route 9. They said their preference would be to use Fiddlers Lane as the only entry and exit.
Colonie Town Engineer Joe Grasso studied the traffic impact of Fiddlers Lane and Middlefield Drive and said that, despite the town’s concerns, he felt it was more efficient for construction crews to enter the site from those two roads. The properties at the end of Fiddlers Lane are currently owned by Siena College, and only a small number of residences would be impacted.
Grasso also recommended Siena complete a pre-construction survey for the town, since the college is dealing with a town-owned road. The Town of Colonie highway department will assess pre- and post-construction conditions of Fiddlers Lane, and Siena would be responsible for any repairs.
Mike DiLima of Gilbane Construction said flaggers will be at the intersections to help direct traffic and maintain student safety. The company will include signage to direct traffic including and prohibiting a right turn from Middlefield Drive to Fiddlers Lane. According to DiLima, there will be a no-tolerance policy put in place for construction and concrete truck drivers.
The town now must complete parts two and three of a SEQRA environmental assessment form for the college. The first part was already completed by Siena. Grasso presented a draft of the final two parts for the board to consider, and said he found the Nobel Hall Science Center will not have any significant environmental impacts.
The project was approved contingent on a mitigation plan regarding construction traffic from Route 9 to Fiddlers Lane to Middlefield Drive, and a pre-and-post-construction meeting with the Department of Public Works.