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NY DOT: Exit 4 Project Finished, More To Be Done

WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

New York State Department of Transportation officials say work is nearly completed on the replacement of two critical bridges on one of the busiest stretches of highway upstate.  The $22 million project in the town of Colonie is on track to be finished by the end of the month.

DOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll made the announcement Wednesday, celebrating the substantial completion of the Adirondack Northway Bridges over Shaker Road at Exit 4 on I-87, just north of Albany. The new bridges replace the originals built during Northway construction in 1959. They carry an average of about 100,000 vehicles each day. Work was able to be completed in one construction season due to the use of pre-cast concrete deck panels. But there's more work to be done.

Driscoll notes the state’s infrastructure is well over 150 years old. New York joins several states in line for federal highway improvement funds.  "40 percent of our funds come from the federal government. So as the Commissioner now of DOT I'm very concerned that the Surface Transportation Bill has not yet been passed. That's really critically important to make sure that we have the funds necessary to be able to address these important infrastructure projects across the state. We're working hard with the folks in Washington. We hope that they do pass the bill, a six-year bill, a fully-funded six-year bill this year, but we'll wait and see what takes place."

Assemblymember Phil Steck of the 110th district says the project will ease traffic congestion throughout the Shaker Road area.  "By widening the bridge underneath the Northway at this location, makes it possible for traffic to move through more smoothly. It's a big bottleneck area in our town. If you'd see every day the huge lineup of cars over there on the off-ramp from the Northway, so we're very very conscious of this. Uniquely, as a legislator, I do really believe very strongly that we need to raise more revenue that's committed specifically to infrastructure improvements, number one, and I think a second point and our Congressman often makes this point, is uh, and the commissioner was talking about 40 percent of the money coming from Washington, but if you're involved all over the world in exotic foreign policy adventures, you're not gonna have the money for infrastructure at home."

Driscoll is looking toward the next item on the construction calendar: a direct access ramp to Albany International Airport.  "That particular project could start in 2019. We have to work to identify the funding. But clearly it's important to have a connector to the airport. You wanna have easy access on and off the highway for folks to get in and out of the airport. There's also opportunities for more economic development throughout this stretch as well, so we'll be working with the local folks here to try to make that happen."

How much will it cost?  "It'll be roughly $30 million for that particular phase. We need to identify the funds. We'll work with our federal partners to continue to do that."

Driscoll says there are many more challenges ahead.  "We wanna think of infrastructure as helping support the needs we have every day, and also to look how we can grow our economy as well. The governor's been very clear on that from day one, and that's what we'll continue to do."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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