Hoosick Road. If you hadn’t planned on reading my article, I’ll bet that just seeing those words has changed your mind. The mere mention of Hoosick Road in our lovely Town is enough to generate intense discussion, controversy, political disagreements and, ultimately, frustration. It is no secret that traveling Hoosick Road, essentially between the intersections of Lake Avenue and NYS Route 142 (Grange Road) is, all too frequently, a challenge. It’s also no secret that that stretch of highway essentially describes our Town’s core commercial corridor, as designated in our Comprehensive Plan and our Zoning Law. There has long been a fundamental dichotomy in our Town between those who believe that we have strayed too far from our rural roots and let commercial development on the Hoosick Road corridor get out of hand, and those who appreciate the convenience of having supermarkets, department stores, car dealerships, eateries, and other businesses, nearby and the healthy effect that has on our tax base. That discussion, however, will not be the focus of this article.
From my perspective, there appear to be two (2) major choke points which seem to cause a lot of the trouble on Hoosick Road in our Town. First, there is often a “bottleneck” right at the Town/City line for vehicles traveling East. There are two east-bound lanes coming out of the City, and right near the Town line, the right-most lane “disappears” and that lane backs up with drivers trying to ease their way in to the single remaining lane, to the consternation of those already in that lane. The other problem area, in my view, is also east-bound, right in front of the Brunswick Plaza (Price Chopper) property. Just as you pass Ted’s Fish Fry, near the intersection of Goodman Avenue, there is a right turn only dedicated lane used for turning right to enter Price Chopper. So, for that stretch, there is only one “through” lane on Hoosick Road for traffic headed East, and that often causes a bottleneck. Once you get past Taco Bell and the Sunmark Credit Union, Hoosick Road widens into two lanes again and, at that point, traffic usually seems to flow pretty well even when there is volume. All that said, I am not a traffic engineer. This is simply my perspective based on what I have observed and the observations of others who have reported them to me.
We do have to recognize the reality that Hoosick Road is a State Highway, and the Town has essentially no power to control traffic on Hoosick Road, or what traffic control related improvements are made there, and when they are made. Such decisions are solely within the province of the NYS Department of Transportation. We have met with Department of Transportation representatives several times in recent years, sharing our (and your) concerns about Hoosick Road and asking that improvements be made to alleviate the traffic situation. We have, unfortunately, had little success. This is not intended as criticism. It appears to be a funding issue. The State Highway system is vast, and we are told that the funds dedicated to making such improvements are limited, so difficult choices need to be made. We did, relatively recently, make an effort to try to facilitate some correction to one of the choke points I mentioned above. When the new owners of the Brunswick Plaza sought to expand to include some additional businesses (the Sunmark Credit Union and the Taco Bell mentioned above) in 2019, we asked them to consider donating some of its land abutting Hoosick Road, so that the dedicated right hand turn only lane into Price Chopper could be extended so as to transform it a into a second “through” lane for traffic headed East, thereby, hopefully, eliminating the choke point. There would then be two, full, lanes East-bound on that stretch of highway, which should help promote the flow of through traffic, while still providing access into the Price Chopper. After some discussion, they graciously agreed. To make a long story short, after the usual bureaucratic nonsense, the land was deeded to and ultimately accepted by the State. To date, however, no improvements have been made there. Again, no criticism. Although the land on which to make the improvement was obtained without cost to the Department of Transportation, there are many other costs associated with a project like this, so it likely remains a funding issue.
This leads us to yet another dichotomy of views in the Town as pertains to Hoosick Road. There are some who believe that this is our Town and the traffic situation on on Hoosick Road has the most direct and profound effect on our residents, especially those who live in the adjacent neighborhoods, who have to deal with access issues every time they need to leave their homes. Therefore, they feel, the Town should bear the cost of making any necessary improvements to alleviate the traffic situation, if the Department of Transportation, for whatever reason, does not do so. The contrary view, of course, is that, once again, Hoosick Road is a State Highway, which is under the jurisdiction and control of the NYS Department of Transportation, which is responsible for its maintenance, repair, and any needed improvements. What we call “Hoosick Road” is actually part of NYS Route 7, which is classified as an Urban Principal Arterial, reflecting the priority of Route 7 to service commuter and commercial travel within the Capital District urban area as well as inter-regional travel between New York State, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Moreover, since the construction of New York State Alternate Route 7 several years ago, Hoosick Street and Hoosick Road have essentially become directly “connected” to the Adirondack Northway (I-87), and have thereby become part of an interstate highway system, providing access to and from Massachusets and Vermont. A great deal of the traffic which contributes to the situation on Hoosick Road, including large and heavy trucks, tractor trailers, flatbeds carrying modular homes, and other commercial vehicles of virtually every description, is just “passing through” Town, headed to or from Vermont, Massachusetts, or other points unknown. Why, then, should our Town undertake the sole responsibility, and the cost, for making needed improvements to this State highway as it passes through Brunswick? Surely, the Town has plenty of its own roads to maintain and improve, and its own funding issues, so the thinking goes. Once again, however, this difference in views is really not the focus of this article.
At this point, I’m guessing that my secretary, who edits the Newsletter, is probably thinking I should probably get around to the actual focus of this article. I’m sure you agree. Frankly, we had a lot of discussion and consideration last Fall as to what we, as a town, could realistically do to attempt to see that the traffic problems on Hoosick Road, our main commercial corridor, get addressed to the greatest possible extent. It was suggested in the context of discussions we were having with our engineering consultants that we might get more traction with the Department of Transportation in our requests for Hoosick Road traffic improvements if we were able to pinpoint exactly what the problems are, how they arose, and what solutions might work, all based upon a detailed study conducted by qualified professionals, rather than just generically asking them to “fix Hoosick Road”. Of course, just conducting such a study, without even considering the cost of making needed improvements, would cost many thousands of dollars. Our engineers recommended that we consider applying for federal planning funds from the 2022-2023 Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) developed and administered by the Capital District Transportation Committee, to fund such a study of the Town’s Hoosick Road commercial corridor as a Community and Transportation Linkage Planning Program project.
In the way of explanation (and please forgive the many abbreviations), the Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC) is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy and Saratoga Springs metropolitan areas of New York State which, of course, includes our Town. A Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is, under federal law, designated by the governor of each state for every urban area in the state having at least 50,000 residents. MPOs, like the CDTC, in our case, develop solutions to regional transportation problems and address other important issues. As our MPO, the CDTC establishes a Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) every two (2) years which identifies the short-range transportation planning activities to be undertaken by the CDTC staff, its planning partners and its consultants for two (2) federal fiscal years. Relevant to this discussion, the CDTC, as the MPO for Albany-Schenectady-Troy and Saratoga Springs metropolitan area of New York State, among many other things, assigns federal transportation planning funding to projects under CDTC’s Community and Transportation Linkage Planning Program (the Linkage Program) which provides financial and technical assistance to local communities (like ours) for integrated land use and transportation planning. A Linkage Program study, which focuses on the traffic situation and the land uses in the specific area, in an integrated way, may be just what is needed to get to the root of the problem and come up with reasonable solutions, and ways to pay for them, that everyone can live with and get behind. Surely, we are well past the point of blaming and finger pointing as to how and why the present concerns on Hoosick Road arose, and who should pay to fix them. We need to get serious about getting the situation, as it presently exists, addressed in a calm, reasonable and professional manner. This study, as proposed, is a worthy first step in that process.
So, to summarize, in November, 2021, our engineering consultant prepared and submitted a project proposal on our behalf to the CDTC to obtain federal transportation planning funds to undertake a study of our Hoosick Road core commercial corridor under the auspices of its Linkage Program. A Total Project Budget of $99,000.00 was proposed, with $90,000.00 to come from federal funds and the remaining $9,000.00 to come from Town of Brunswick funds. The local match requirement insures that the municipality has “skin in the game” and is serious about addressing the issue. Part of the submission to the CDTC was a letter from the New York State Department of Transportation which stated that it supported the proposed Linkage Study and agreed to participate if the project is funded and progresses. It should be noted that this was an “open” process open to all communities in the CDTC “catchment” area. Federal transportation planning funds are, as you might guess, limited, and each proposed project was thoroughly reviewed and evaluated, and prioritized, by CDTC staff. A virtual public meeting was held by the CDTC in February 2022 to discuss the various projects under consideration for the grant of federal transportation planning funds during the 2022-2023 fiscal years, including ours, and accept public comments.
Again, to make a long story short, we have now been formally advised that our project has been accepted for federal transportation planning funding to the extent of the full $90,000.00 requested (I will note here that that was very nearly the maximum amount we could have requested, as the total project budget for Linkage Program studies cannot exceed $100,000.00, including the required 10% local contribution). The CDTC is now in the process of selecting a transportation planning consultant who will administer the project on behalf of the Town. CDTC and the consultant it selects will then collaborate on the study, which will examine previous and current planning initiatives, current land use and zoning, and existing traffic and transportation issues, as they pertain to our Hoosick Road commercial corridor. Ultimately, the study will include recommendations for improvements and a plan for their implementation. I’m sure that the CDTC and its consultant will also work closely with the Department of Transportation in those regards. Brunswick residents will be encouraged to participate in the process and provide input in the context of public meetings.
On behalf of the Town Board, and our residents, I would like to thank the Capital District Transportation Committee for its thorough and professional review of our Linkage Study project proposal and its recognition that a thorough, integrated review of land use and transportation issues on our Hoosick Road core commercial corridor is a necessary and worthy project, warranting the advancement of federal transportation planning funds. We also want to recognize and thank the New York State Department of Transportation for its support of our proposed Linkage Study and its expressed willingness to participate. We look forward to working with the CDTC, the transportation planning consultant it selects, the New York State Department of Transportation and, of course, all of you, to see that the study is completed and that the improvements it recommends are implemented. Improving the traffic situation on Hoosick Road is long overdue and we’re as anxious to get started as you are.