Chatham gets a light, drivers get a break

CHATHAM–The Town Board reviewed plans from the town’s engineering firm for the traffic lights on the Albany Turnpike Bridge at the last meeting of the year December 22. There will be one traffic light at the entrance to the bridge from Route 295 and another light at the entrance from Old Chatham.

Town Highway Superintendent Joe Rickert showed the meeting audience the plans, which would also extend the sidewalk from the bridge. When asked by a town resident about ownership of the bridge, which was replaced by the CSX rail company, Mr. Rickert said, “It doesn’t have anything to do with the ownership of the bridge…That’s still an outlying issue.”

CSX has been negotiating with the Town Board to have the town take ownership of the bridge since the company demolished an old, wider bridge at the site and completed construction of the new one-lane replacement bridge in 2014. The board did not believe that CSX had addressed the vehicle safety issue at the bridge intersection.

Town Supervisor Maria Lull said after the meeting that the traffic lights will be installed whether or not the town takes ownership of the bridge from CSX. The town received $100,000 for the project through the office of state Senator Kathy Marchione (R-43rd). According to Mr. Rickert, the town needs to raise another $100,000 to put in the light. Ms. Lull said the board budgeted to borrow the funds in the 2018 budget.

“This is the first light in the town,” Mr. Rickert said. He said that though there might be some issue of back-up on Route 295, the engineers had told him he would be able to adjust the timing of the lights.

“This is our best alternative,” he said of the unsafe crossing over the one-way lane.

Adelle Kleiman-Levine, who has been active in the effort to improve safety at the intersection, pointed out that in 2013 the state Department of Transportation looked at the bridge crossing and deemed it safe. She said the state agency did not conduct a traffic study at that time or look at the access and egress to the bridge.

“They should be held accountable for this,” she said of the DOT. “They were negligent too, not just CSX.”

Also at the meeting:

• The Town Board tabled voting on new a law regulating timbering in the town. Town Attorney Sal Ferlazzo said he will meet with the state Department of Environmental Conservation about the requirements. Several residents who work in logging or have land that is logged, expressed concerns about the proposed law at a public hearing on the proposal held before the regular meeting.

“Forestry and forest management is a complex process,” said James Kelly, a consulting forester.

Mr. Ferlazzo said of the regulations, “Obviously this is going to be revised.” Copies of the proposed regulations are available at the Town Hall. Mr. Ferlazzo said that the proposal would be back on the town agenda in February and, if major changes to the proposed regulations are being considered, the board will hold another public hearing

• The board named The Bank of Greene County as the town’s depository of funds. The town currently uses Kinderhook Bank. Supervisor Lull said The Bank of Greene County was offering a higher interest rate, which Kinderhook Bank could not meet. Board member Henry Swartz was the only member who voted against changing banks. Councilman John Wapner was not at the meeting

• This was Councilman Swartz’s last meeting. He did not win reelection to his seat last November after eight years on the board. He only had positive things to say about incoming Councilman Kevin Weldon and Councilman Wapner, who won reelection.

Mr. Swartz said would like to continue to stay active on board committees. “I still want to be part of the town and I still want to be involved,” he said. “You don’t have to be a councilman to help this town.”

Supervisor Lull said his service to the town was invaluable; Councilman Bob Balcom said, “You will be missed.”

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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