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Gloversville officials look to build new access road

August 26, 2012
By AMANDA MAY METZGER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - When it comes to breaking the access barrier on Route 30A, the question of balance comes into play.

Originally called the Route 148 Bypass, the Arterial was constructed as a way of mitigating through-traffic out of small cities - like the Glove Cities -and onto a state highway that would allow for better mobility.

"It was to relieve congestion in downtown, not to build a core of development," said DOT Director of Operations Bob Rice.

Article Photos

Photo submitted
This photo of a map shows the proposed break in access road, in white, parralel to Route 30A, between South Kingsboro Avenue and Steele Avenue, west of the state highway. The Walmart construction site is not pictured, but is located across from the South Kingsboro Avenue and Route 30A intersection. The property boundary line in red indicates the line between the town of Johnstown and city of Gloversville, showing that some of the nine parcels are located in the town.

But since the 1950s development along the roadway in Johnstown - where the city purchased rights to curb cuts when the land was purchased to build the road - has exploded into a number of retailers and restaurants.

As the city of Gloversville looks into building a new access road on the west side of the highway, the question of striking a balance between continued mobility along the highway and potential for development comes into play, Rice said.

In the 1950s when the bypass was built, the cities also had to pay 50 percent of the cost for the acquired right of way under the provisions of Arterial Law, said DOT Spokesman Jim Piccola.

Piccola said he found documentation that the portion of land north of Johnstown, in the Gloversville area, came with a $476,000 price tag, whereas the Johnstown portion was $171,800, meaning that Johnstown was responsible only for $85,900.

With Johnstown's lower cost, the right to cut curbs anywhere in that portion was purchased.

But the geography and topography likely played a larger role in the fact that north of Johnstown, Route 30A remains largely undeveloped, Rice and Piccola said.

The roadway by Johnstown intersects with Main Street and is located closer to the city's business district, whereas north it winds through both the city of Gloversville and town of Johnstown.

Driveways to both the plaza that includes Walmart and Hannaford, as well as the Arterial Plaza, are located just outside city limits in the town.

"I think the bottom line is that when the Route 148 Bypass, as it was called at the time, was built, at the lower end it touched the business district more on the Johnstown side. When the alignment went off in Gloversville, it was more up against rural and undeveloped farmland. It was not part of the thought process at the time that it would become a commercial district," Rice said. "It's more of a sign of the times in the late 1940s early 1950s, when this bypass was being thought of, it appears the intent was rural and natural and the mobility was the intent of the northern piece. It was to relieve congestion in downtown, not to build a core of development."

But as the years passed, officials have looked numerous times at ways to allow greater access for commercial and retail development along Route 30A.

Earlier this month the city Common Council passed a resolution to allot $25,000 for a traffic impact report that will study the effects of building a new roadway west of and parallel to Route 30A.

Still in preliminary stages, the proposed roadway would stretch 1.15 miles across nine parcels of privately-owned land between South Kingsboro Avenue and Steele Avenue.

The terrain appears heavily wooded and hilly, but that shouldn't be a problem, Mayor Dayton King said.

"The terrain shouldn't have anything to do with it. You bring in these supersized trucks and soil that can make any hill flat," King said.

The new road as proposed would have one area of direct access to Route 30A and also be accessible from South Kingsboro and Steele avenues.

With some of those parcels in the town of Johnstown, the importance of inter-municipal cooperation for the success such a project is highlighted.

"There's been a lot of conversation with the [municipalities] involved and the developers. A lot of those discussions are ongoing right now," said Bob Rice, state DOT director of operations.

Before the road could become reality, the city must take a number of steps and work with the state Department of Transportation, which must OK the project.

The traffic impact study must be completed and submitted to DOT, and the city must review its comprehensive plan to see if the project fits within it.

"How does this fit into the city's comprehensive plan? That's what we'll have to decide - whether we're looking at just updating the current one or doing an overhaul.," said 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth. "How does this fit into the city's comprehensive plan? That's what we'll have to decide

The cost of overhauling the comprehensive plan could be as much as $80,000, she said.

"There's a hefty price tag with it. Some cities do it with a citizen advisory board; it's the type of thing that takes a number of years to do. We're really preliminary here. Getting to this point is the furthest the city has been so far."

Wentworth said city officials are envisioning retail and restaurant businesses along the roadway, and she said.

Whether the city would need to purchase full parcels to build the road remains to be seen.

Stephen Mauro, Recreation Realty and Stan Kucel are working on developing one of the parcels that Mauro bought about four years ago.

Originally he intended to build a new warehouse for his company S&J Enterprises, a wholesale distributor of janitorial chemicals and equipment, based in Johnstown, which has more than two decades of history.

But he decided not to build the warehouse there and is instead looking for other uses for the property.

The city conducted a public hearing in July on annexation of the land into the city, but officials say they will consider an intermunicipal agreement instead.

Mauro said he hasn't been informed of any updates yet.

"We keep working with everybody to try to get it to the point where it can be marketed, and hopefully we can find a large retail outlet to come in and develop the property. It would be nice for this area. We could definitely use the jobs and tax base," Mauro said.

Mauro said the property has potential with good drainage and sandy soil.

"Now if we could get an access road across the bottom, and maybe a break in access off of Route30A, I think we have an absolutely beautiful possibility of being able to market the property to the proper people," he said.

Wentworth said the results of the traffic impact study will allow officials to see whether they should pursue the idea further.

"I think it was a smart decision on our part [to start the study]," she said. "Before we go and put any more work and money into this, is it feasible? Are we going to be able to do it? That's DOT's decision, but we've got to make sure we can do it safely."

According to the schedule for the study, which the city issued requests for proposals for in July, the work should be completed in November. The study is scheduled to begin this week, according to the RFP documents.

The scope of work includes meeting with city officials, landowners and developers, evaluating existing conditions, studying the capacity of the area, as well as a traffic accident analysis.

"We live in an area that is severely depressed. Most of the industry has moved out of here. If we are going to progress, I firmly believe that this is the time to work together, because there's going to be overflow [from Malta development] and if we can all work together, the city of Gloversville has the water, both cities have the sewer, and the town has the land. If we all get together we've got an absolute win-win, and there will be progress again," Mauro said. "It's timing. We need to do it now."



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