Electric Trail unveils current plan for N. Chatham crossing

NORTH CHATHAM–Representatives from the state’s Hudson River Valley Greenway attended a public meeting Saturday, October 20 at the North Chatham Trolley Station to discuss changes the state plans to make at the intersection of state Route 203, county Route 32 and Bunker Hill Road in the hamlet as part of the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (AHET).

The AHET is a 35-mile bicycling and pedestrian trail running from Rensselaer County to just outside of Hudson mostly along the National Grid rights-of-way. The trail development and construction will be paid for by the state.

The Greenway’s plan is to complete the trial, which goes through several municipalities in the county, by 2020. In North Chatham the trail will run along county Route 32 and some of state Route 203 until it meets up with the rights-of-way behind the Trolley Station.

Empire State Trail Director Andy Beers and Chris Corwell, the design engineer on the project, presented a full-house of local residents with details of the new plan for the roads, which would converge at a “T” where Routes 203 and 32 intersect. “Two center median islands will be installed on Route 203 at the T-intersection to clam (slow) traffic speeds as vehicles on Route 203 pass through the intersection,” said the handout at the meeting from the Greenway.

There will be a new crosswalk on Route 203 with signs and flashing signals that will go off when people push a button on the sign.

Mr. Beers said this was the third meeting he’d attended in North Chatham about the intersection. At the last meeting the Greenway and the residents had discussed a roundabout but Mr. Beers said they could not do that. The handout said that the state Department of Transportation “determined there is not sufficient room to construct a roundabout.”

With the changes to the road, Mr. Beers said that the shoulders will be expanded to a width of five feet, except on the nearby bridge on Route 203. The shoulders on the bridge will remain at four feet wide.

Residents at the meeting had concerns with speeds in the hamlet and truck traffic. Mr. Beers stressed that he was not a traffic engineer but that the median islands will slow traffic. He said that the Greenway is focused on the trail but that lowering the speed limits requires “a conversation with DOT.”

“Speed limits are not set by the Greenway,” he said.

North Chatham resident George Vollmuth said, “We have made countless attempts to slow traffic in North Chatham.” He also said that truck traffic has increased in the hamlet.

Another resident told Mr. Beers that “people coming from Nassau are not slowing down.” Others talked about the speed and dangerous sight lines on the road.

“I think it’s going to be a major improvement to what we have now,” said resident Rick Werwaiss of the intersections.

Ron Rich, who is part of a new not-for-profit corporation called The Columbia Friends of the Electric Trail, said that having been to other trails in the state like this one, drivers will stop for the flashing lights and signs. Mr. Rich’s group was created to promote the trail and to help with maintenance in municipalities like Chatham that are refusing to maintain the section of the trail in their towns.

Most of the AHET is going to be off road on the rights-of-way, but there are other short sections, like one in the North Chatham, where the trail will be on the side of the road. Mr. Beers said there will be bikers and walkers on both sides of the street in North Chatham.

As for construction, Mr. Corwell, the engineer, said there will be no need for detours on Route 203 during the work, which should be about a four-week project. There will be no changes to the traffic pattern on Bunker Hill Road. Stop signs will be installed, requiring all eastbound vehicles on Route 32 to stop when they reach the intersection with Route 203.

Mr. Beers said the public comment period for the trail is coming to end and officials plan to solicit bids for construction contracts this winter.

The Greenway will take comments at the trail website at www.ahettrail.org until October 31.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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