Niskayuna roundabout gets skeptical reception

An early design of the planned roundabout at River and Rosendale roads in Niskayuna. (Stephen Williams)An early design of the planned roundabout at River and Rosendale roads in Niskayuna. (Stephen Williams)

NISKAYUNA — Plans that could put a $2 million roundabout at the intersection of River and Rosendale roads got a skeptical reception at their public unveiling Wednesday night.

About 40 people came to Town Hall to hear about alternatives being considered to reduce traffic delays at the T-intersection, which has become notorious for the delays on River Road when workers at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory and General Electric Global Research leave in the afternoon.

“The big problem isn’t the intersection, it’s the volume of traffic,” said Mike Cassella, a resident of Rosendale Road who said traffic speed is the biggest issue for people who live in the area.

About 12,000 vehicles per day use the intersection, but consulting engineers Creighton Manning of Albany say that will increase to 13,500 vehicles or more by 2039. There is currently a stop sign on River Road and no traffic control on Rosendale.

Based on the traffic delays and safety concerns, Schenectady County, which owns both roads, has been looking at improvements since at least 2013.

When federal funding was awarded to the project last year, it was described as a roundabout project, but the county is in fact studying three alternatives, according to Creighton Manning project engineer Steve Godlewski:

  • A roundabout, which would be a single-lane circle, at a construction cost of $1.5 million to $1.6 million.
  • A traffic light at the current intersection, with a new right-turn lane on Rosendale and wider shoulders, at an estimated cost of $1 million to $1.1 million.
  • An intersection redesign and realignment so that River Road flows indirectly into eastbound Rosendale, with westbound Rosendale the intersecting road, at a cost of $1.5 million to $1.6 million.

“Just to be clear, no alternative is selected yet,” Godlewski told the crowd.

All would require acquisition of at least some private property, he said, though the roundabout would require the most, about four-tenths of an acre.

Many people at the meeting appeared to be local residents, though a few said they commuted through the intersection. Local residents generally slammed the roundabout concept.

“In terms of overall safety, I don’t think this better than a traffic signal with a turn lane,” said resident Ray Coco, who lives on River Road. He said he’s been watching the evening traffic backups for 37 years.

“To me, this is a really heavily traveled T [intersection] and we’re controlling it with one stop sign,” said one man who identified himself as a KAPL worker. “Something has to be done.”

Godlewski said public input is among the things that will be considered as the consultant and county decide which alternative will be recommended. That decision is expected this spring, with construction anticipated in 2019.

County engineer Paul Shelton said the final decision will be up to the Schenectady County Legislature.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.netor @gazettesteve on Twitter.