One bad turn deserves better

Chatham looks to improve perilous bridge approach
CHATHAM–The Town Board is looking for a way to make crossing the Albany Turnpike Bridge, also known as the East Chatham Bridge, a little easier. So last week Highway Superintendent Joe Rickert showed board members designs from the town’s engineering firm, Barton and Loguidice, to change the entrance to the bridge for vehicles coming from Route 295.

“We knew we were going to have a problem,” Mr. Rickert told the board at the Thursday, June 19 regular board meeting. He was referring to the bridge, which was rebuilt last year with funds from CSX Transportation, the company that owns the railroad tracks that run below the bridge. The board has been discussing the intersection at Route 295 and Albany Turnpike since construction started in late fall of 2013. Residents say the entrance to the new bridge from the state highway is more dangerous than the old approach. At a meeting in April, residents spoke about near misses they had driving or walking across the one-lane bridge. At that time, Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said he would contact the state Department of Transportation to see if anything could be done.

In the plans that Mr. Rickert presented to the board, the spur road for drivers turning right past the bridge onto Route 295 would be closed, as would the wide turn going left onto the bridge from the state highway. One effect of the changes would be, Mr. Rickert said, to slow the traffic making the turn.

The engineers also came up with a design to change the intersection of Frisbee and Tompkins (county Route 9) streets where they intersect before the junction with Route 295 just before the bridge. Right now Frisbee meets Tompkins with no clear way to tell who has the right of way. Mr. Rickert said there had been several accidents there.

The highway superintendent said that the engineering firm gave him a quote of $9,800 to survey the whole area of project but that if the board wants, he can just have the firm pursue the bridge crossing issue and wait on changing the two side streets.
“I think we should just do it,” he told the board of the whole project.

Supervisor DeGroodt said he would check with the town’s comptroller about funding the survey for this year.
Mr. Rickert stressed that plans were not finalized and that this was just a first step in a long project. There would be time for input from town residents.

The other major issue discussed at the meeting was a new garbage can removal law. The proposed law, which the board has been debating for several months, would require residents to move their trash cans from the street within 72 hours after garbage pick-up or risk being fined.

The issue came up last fall when board member Maria Lull said she noticed County Waste, the garbage hauler for the town, did not collect the trash for several days after a scheduled pick up day. At the direction of the board the town attorney then started working on the new law, and Ms. Lull urged people to call County Waste. Also, the board posted a form on the town website that residents can send to the state attorney general’s office to complain about County Waste.

At the meeting, Ms. Lull said that this law was to protect the public health and help with the beautification of the town.
Board Member Bob Balcom said that he supported the proposed law because the cans were an issue not just for pedestrians but for the town Highway Department, when crews are plowing or working on roads.

Supervisor DeGroodt called the proposal “brutally unenforceable.” Board members Jean Rohde and Henry Swartz also did not support the proposed law, and the measure did not pass. But the board is going to continue discussing the possibility of the town starting its own garbage pick-up service.

Also at the June 19 meeting the board:
•Passed a motion to make Church Lane one-way going from Route 13 to state Route 66. The motion will be sent to state Department of Transportation for approval
•Requested that the speed limit on Albany Turnpike be reduced to 30 mph from 55 mph
•Asked for volunteers to join the town Conservation Advisory Council
•Heard from representatives of the Healthcare Consortium about a free cancer screening program in Hudson for men and women 40 years or older who are uninsured or under-insured. The town will post information on the municipal website www.chathamnewyork.us.
The next regular meeting is Thursday, July 17 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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