DOT says lights out and Chatham signs on

CHATHAM – Two stop signs and a “Do not stop on tracks” sign are what the state now proposes for the intersection of Routes 66 (Main Street), Route 295 and the railroad crossing in the village.

Representatives from the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and CSX, the railroad company that owns and uses the tracks, met with village trustees and a few business owners Monday, March 12 to propose the new traffic plan that meets the train company’s concerns about safety at the intersection.

Initially the state proposed traffic lights at the intersection and on Park Row. When DOT came to the village with the idea, the board asked officials to consider other options, like an existing concept that would have extended Main Street between Herrington’s and the Kinderhook Bank.

DOT and CSX also heard from village residents at a packed meeting in January at which people expressed their unhappiness about the prospect of more construction in the village after the prolonged street and storm sewer project two years ago. Many also questioned the need for changes at an intersection that has not had accidents.

Now the state plans to add a stop sign on the northbound lane of Route 66 where it intersects with Route 295 and the train tracks, as drivers head into the center of the village. Another stop sign will be placed on the southbound lane of Main Street at Volunteer Square before the crosswalk near the clock tower.

The state also plans to remove two parking spaces on Route 66 near Video Visions so trucks can make the wide turn onto Main Street more easily.  The final piece of the project calls for sign reading: “Do not stop on tracks” next to the stop sign at the end of Route 295 where drivers turn right onto Main Street.

Jim Rapoli of DOT said that this would be much less expensive than adding the four traffic lights or moving Main Street; each of those projects involved an estimated cost of about $1 million. “Now we are looking at a sign solution to address CSX’s concerns about cars stopping on the railroad tracks,” he said.

“This proposal, though it may not be perfect, it buys us time,” said Mayor Tom Curran at the morning meeting.

People who attended, including Trustee Lael Locke, asked whether the state could remove the paved island at the intersection of Routes 295 and 66, a low barrier created during the road and drainage project. The state meant to create a turn lane but never opened it. The lane remains blocked by steel posts.

“The new island for the main gate is the biggest problem,” said Rich Kraham, who owns a Main Street business and has called for simpler solutions to village traffic problems at meetings and in his publication, The Chatham Press.

Bob Rohauer from CSX said that the island is there for the train crossing gates. When the construction was done the crossing gates they were changed to comply with safety codes, he said. Getting rid of the island would mean having to reconfigure the crossing with four gates, and for that the village would need state approval.

“It’s a complex arrangement,” Mr. Rohauer said of the intersection.

The DOT’s Mr. Rapoli said that controlling traffic with the stop signs at that intersection would make it safer. “I want to reduce the speed coming into intersection,” he said. He also said he listened at the public hearing when people said they didn’t want construction, and this is a no-construction answer to the problem.

Mr. Curran and Ms. Locke both thanked Mr. Rapoli for coming to the village with the proposal. He said the village can look into adding a flashing light to the stop sign at Route 295 to draw drivers’ attention to the sign and adding larger signs, but the board would need state approval for those changes and it is a choice that should be made by the village.

“I’d like to get this in as quickly as possible,” Mr. Rapoli said of the signs.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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