“The Crosstown” — a busy strip of Route 7 in Schenectady, N.Y., west of Niskayuna — is getting a facelift: a $12.8-million facelift to be exact.
A vital commuter route between Schenectady and Albany counties, this section of Route 7 services approximately 40,000 vehicles a day. As part of the project, the configuration of the intersection at Route 7 and Balltown Road will change. This intersection alone accommodates approximately 15,000 vehicles daily.
The work on the 2.25-mi. section between Interstate 890 and St. David’s Lane will replace aging pavement, improve traffic flow at congested intersections and make walking safer for pedestrians. Callanan Industries Inc. of Schenectady is the project’s contractor.
To lessen the impact to the traveling public, the project, which began in May, is being constructed in stages using concrete mix designs. Traffic is maintained using travel lane shifts, night work, temporary weekend and nighttime roadway closures and detours.
To maintain access to properties and minimize construction time, portions of the Route 7 and Watt Street intersection are being constructed using pre-manufactured concrete pavement slabs installed and made accessible to traffic during nighttime hours.
The work has been divided into four phases that includes short sections of Union Street and Balltown Road. Department of Transportation (DOT) officials are hopeful that the majority of the work will be completed this year, will full completion expected by June 2007.
According to Callanan Senior Vice President Jonas Havens, the work requires unusually extensive reconstruction of the roadbed, including completely replacing concrete panels in some sections.
“All the concrete pavement is being pulled out and new concrete and blacktop pavement is being put in.” explained Havens. That equates to “a good portion of the road being entirely reconstructed. One-half of the job is rehab; the other is reconstruction.”
Rather than pouring concrete in place, which requires road closure while it cures, the plan is for crews to install pre-cast panels and restore traffic immediately, said Havens. Engineers initially wanted to repair the underlying concrete and lay a new asphalt surface. As they began designing the job, however, it was determined that the 45- to 50-year-old road needed more.
The Project breakdown includes:
• Phase 1 — Rebuild concrete pavement between I-890 and Albany Street. Lane shifts can be expected with temporary lane closures and weekend detours around the intersection of Watt and Albany Streets.
• Phase 2 — Rebuild concrete pavement between Albany Street and Consaul Road. Westbound traffic will be restricted to a single lane for approximately six weeks. Ramps to and from Route 5 will be repaved.
• Phase 3 — Rehabilitate pavement between Consaul Road and St. David’s Lane, repair concrete joints and add a new asphalt overlay. The existing asphalt pavement will be milled to remove surface imperfections and a two-course asphalt overlay will be applied. Temporary lane closures can be expected midday and nights.
• Phase 4 — Rehabilitate pavement on Balltown Road from just north of Union Street to just south of Route 7 and on Union Street from Balltown Road to the merge with Route 7. Balltown Road work will be restricted to night hours.
Permanent changes will include a ban on left turns from southbound Balltown Road to eastbound Route 7. Motorists will have to use Union Street to get on Route 7 eastbound.
Other work includes upgrading traffic signals and installing new crosswalks with lighting and pedestrian signals that count down time left to cross. A sidewalk will be added between Albany and Watt Streets on the north side of Route 7. Drainage work also is planned and crews will remove old light poles no longer in use.
To keep its workers and construction sites safe, New York implemented the Work Zone Safety Act of 2005. The law promotes safety for the state’s highway work zones and increases penalties to those convicted of speeding within them. It was designed to enhance driver education, increase drivers’ accountability and create a more sensible work zone in which to travel.
Key provisions include:
• Greater police presence in work zones to enforce posted speed reductions;
• Increase deployment of radar speed display signs in work zones to serve as a visible reminder of motorist speed;
• Imposing a 60-day driver’s license suspension for motorists convicted of two or more work zone speeding violations, in addition to the double minimum fine for speeding in work zones that had long been on the books;
• Imposing a $50 surcharge for speeding in work zones, with proceeds going to a newly established Highway Construction and Maintenance Safety Education Fund; and
• Developing rules and regulations to increase work zone safety through the cooperative efforts of NYSDOT, the NYS Police, the State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Thruway Authority, local law enforcement agencies and contractors.
Haven believes the new law has been effective.
“It is helping. We have so much work going on in the area that traffic really has no choice but to go slow, which is a good thing from a safety standpoint. While there is tremendous awareness because of the [Work Zone] Safety Act, in reality traffic is being slowed down more because of the construction.”
AJ Castlebuono, president and CEO, Associated General Contractors, New York State Chapter Inc., reinforces the Act’s importance by urging the traveling public to: “Remember that this law was passed just weeks after three highway construction workers lost their lives last year when a speeding tour bus crossed into their job site. Our industry’s hard-working men and women deserve to go home safely every night; and so do the motorists.” CEG