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Santabarbara Seeks Study For State Worker Start Times To Tame Traffic

The South Mall Arterial in Albany
Ian Pickus
The South Mall Arterial in Albany

A Capital Region State Assemblyman has proposed examining a new way to relieve the area’s congested roadways that cause headaches for drivers.

Commuters on the state Thruway and Adirondack Northway in the Capital Region likely already know they spend a lot of time in the car, but a study recently put a number on it.

According to the study by Texas A&M, Capital Region commuters spent an average of 49 hours stuck in traffic in 2017. That’s up from about 45 hours in 2012.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Rotterdam Democrat, says things are only going to get worse if something isn’t done.

“You think about the fuel, you think about the air pollution, this could help alleviate a lot of the issues we’re talking about at the state capitol as far as air quality, also save people money,” said Santabarbara.

Because many of the workers who commute to Albany are in public-sector jobs, Santabarbara would like a task force to study staggered employee start times. The idea: that if you leave for work before or after the rush, you’ll likely have an easier time getting home, too.

“This may be a solution that works for some of the employees. Something that where we could stagger either starting earlier or starting later.”

Asked for comment, CSEA and PEF, unions that represent thousands of state workers and other public sector employees, both said they’d need more information before weighing in.

But that’s just one idea. Republican State Senator Jim Tedisco of Glenville also experiences the traffic between his home in Schenectady County and Albany.

“Morning traffic, afternoon traffic from the capitol across the Capital Region is a bear, very difficult. So it affects the ability to our job as public servants and those who work for the State of New York, but it also just affects commerce,” said Tedisco.

He has another solution.

“I think a commuter lane evaluation, another one added, would be something to realistically look at,” said Tedisco.

Morning southbound traffic on the three-lane Northway usually gets hung up around the Twin Bridges in southern Saratoga County.

That county has for the last several years been classified as one of the fastest-growing in the state.

Mark Castiglione of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission says land-use must be a part of the equation when finding ways to alleviate traffic.

“There are 18,000 more workers commuting into downtown Albany today than there were in the early 2000s. But the number of people who live and work in the City of Albany has not changed. So, yes, we need to look at strategies to incentivize and encourage more people to live in cities and I think we’re seeing some of that, kind of investment, happening now. But what I also think we need to look at are historic patterns of development in our suburban locales,” said Castiglione.

Castiglione says over the last 20 years, the Capital Region has seen single-family home development grow at five times the population growth rate.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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