By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Traffic repatterning and signal work in the city of Amsterdam will be coming to a close in likely a couple of months.
Nicer weather during the past few weeks has beckoned contracting crews back outside in the city to continue their digs to place new mast arm light signals and pedestrian-crossing signals throughout city intersections. They will soon also be repaving intersections and getting the city ready for the new traffic pattern.
The work is part of a $3 million New York State Department of Transportation project that began in June 2012.
Jim Piccola, public information officer for the DOT's Region 2, said Friday that the project is really something unique.
"Working with the city, we realized that there were issues with the one-way traffic," Piccola said. "They felt and we felt that by having the two-way traffic, especially east-west on Route 5S ... that that is going to give a lot more mobility to the city and make it easier to get into the city and around the city."
Piccola said that additionally, the signals were old, some dating back 50 years, and they desperately needed updating.
And, so the work began.
DOT contractors made significant strides during the summer and fall of 2012, and though the project completion date had been pushed back, crews picked the work back up this year as the spring started to show signs of its arrival.
Among the work nearly completed is a brand-new ramp from eastbound Route 5 that leads right into westbound Route 5 through the city just before Route 30 South.
"We haven't top course paved it yet, so it's barricaded off, closed to traffic right now," said Robert Gressel, Engineer in Charge for the whole project. "The underlying asphalt courses are in place. ... We actually already seeded it so we got the grass starting to grow. Some of the landscaping is finished."
Gressel said there are about eight trees that are waiting to be planted along the shoulder of that new ramp.
Though the ramp is closed off for now, once the top layer of asphalt gets put on, the ramp will eventually lead traffic onto a brand new eastbound lane through center city.
Gressel said that this week, contractor crews blocked off the far left lane of Route 5 West in the city, which will be blocked until the repatterning takes effect.
Gressel said the purpose is to in part allow space for contractors to continue their work, but also to train city residents of where they will have to drive on the road when the project is complete.
Once finished, the two northern most lanes on Route 5, from Liberty Street to Route 30 South, in the city will be westbound traffic, while the southern most lane will be a new eastbound lane that will taper off into Liberty Street.
And the southern most lane on Route 5 West from the Stewart's on East Main Street up to Liberty Street will no longer be open to traffic, leaving just one lane for vehicles to travel west.
"We're also changing this block of Church Street," Gressel said, referring to the section of Church Street from the Route 30 bridge to Route 5 West. "That's going to have one lane for southbound traffic and then the two lanes going northbound. And so those are the only areas that we're changing the traffic flow."
Once the official traffic switch happens, vehicles will no longer be able to park in front of the Amsterdam Post Office and the mail boxes on the road will be moved to another location to accommodate that.
The roadway on both of the streets that will soon allow two-way traffic will also be resurfaced.
As for the traffic signal work, Piccola said mast arm, LED signals are being constructed at 10 main intersections throughout the city, many of which are already up, but not yet functioning.
Gressel said however that the three new signal intersections up on Market Street are already in use.
"The signals are operational now and final restoration work need to be done up there."
That final restoration, which Gressel said will begin at the end of April, will include resurfacing the intersections, putting in new concrete sidewalks, painting new crosswalks, and making sure all the new signs are up.
Those final restoration pieces will still need to be completed at the other intersections still under construction.
Gressel did say that for the three Route 5 West intersections in the city's center, there are waiting for information from National Grid about when the new signals can be turned on.
"National Grid has to give us a new power source," Gressel said. "There's going to be a couple power outages that they have to have, to be able to put in line their new facility to power up our signals as well as like 160 customers in the city."
Gressel said those outages will not likely occur for a number of weeks, but the public will be notified well in advance.
The last thing that will change will be the traffic pattern switch itself.
"Our goal is to maintain the current traffic pattern when we turn on all the signals until a point when we can make the switch in one day," Gressel said. "That's going to have about a two-week advanced notification for the public. That's probably going to be towards the end of May when that will happen."
Piccola said a travel advisory will be sent out to residents informing them of the change.
And, Gressel added, variable signs at the four corners of the changing section will also let them know.
"As the traffic is switched, there will probably have to be flaggers at intersections," he said.
Piccola said that the traffic pattern switch date could be pushed, but it will depend on the weather.
"Our contractor is working very hard to meet that completion date and we are working toward that goal, too."
Piccola said it will be a change for the city, one they don't facilitate often in the region, but he's hoping the change will give the city more mobility and possibly spur some economic development, making it easier for both residents and visitors to travel within Amsterdam.
"It will be just like driving into the city for the first time."