TOWN OF FLORIDA — The state Department of Transportation is refining plans for a $6.65 million corridor improvement project on a portion of Route 5S in the town of Florida targeted for construction next year.
Improvements would be made along a 1.3 mile stretch of Route 5S starting around the bridge over the Schoharie Creek and traveling eastbound past the Dollar General and Hill & Markes distribution centers.
“The primary focus initially is to keep traffic moving in an organized and safe manner,” said Jonathan Tibbitts, design teams manager for DOT. “The corridor itself over the years has been developed further and further and truck volume is increasing along with regular volume.”
The project will involve widening of travel lanes and shoulders in both directions and the addition of an eastbound climbing lane to mitigate delays to regular traffic caught behind freight vehicles that normally lose speed while making their way uphill.
Improvements to drainage and road surfaces through the corridor will be incorporated into the project to limit the need for DOT to return in the future for additional projects impacting traffic.
“Drainage down through there is antiquated. Although it’s functioning, it’s a good opportunity to build a little more resilient corridor,” Tibbitts said.
“It’s time to get some pavement improvement underway,” he added.
The expanded roadway and fresh pavement will improve safety along the sloped and curved area of roadway where an estimated 3.38 crashes occur out of every one million vehicles traveling through, according to DOT statistics.
That’s about 27% higher than the statewide average of 2.67 crashes for every one million vehicles on similar rural highways.
“That obviously catches our interest and makes us say, ‘what can we try to do to help minimize that,’” Tibbitts said.
No fatalities have occurred along the stretch, but there have been at least a few serious crashes, according to Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffery Smith.
Mostly there have been minor fender benders or nuisance issues involving vehicles going off the road or getting stuck during winter storms, especially trucks trying to navigate the hill.
“Whenever it snows and is slippery that road has become a major problem with tractor trailers going up and coming down,” Smith said. “I think any highway improvements there would be a welcome addition to all of us.”
DOT staff will discuss preliminary plans in depth and gather feedback from residents to revise the project during an open house on Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Florida Town Hall.
“This is our opportunity to get dialogue, take it back and refine it,” Tibbitts said.
The forum will provide an opportunity for project representatives to show area homeowners the specific sections of land that must be acquired from 14 properties to accommodate the improvements.
Impacts to surrounding properties will vary when the infrastructure is widened around 12 feet on the eastbound side and around 2 feet on the westbound side. DOT real estate officers are working with landowners to reach agreements on acquisition and compensation.
The $6.65 million estimated project will be paid through 80% federal aid and 20% state funding. Construction is tentatively planned next spring for completion by November 2023. Alternating lane closures are expected during road work.
The proposed improvements are essential to support the already “tremendous growth” and further development anticipated by county officials along Route 5S, according to Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort.
“It’s a much needed infrastructure project that aligns with the growth in the area. It will certainly benefit not only businesses, but residents who are traveling up and down Route 5S each day,” Ossenfort said.
To have DOT undertake the work without any expense to the county only adds to the project’s attraction, Ossenfort indicated.
DOT will host a public open house on the proposed Route 5S corridor improvement project on Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Florida Town Hall at 167 Fort Hunter Road.
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.
More from The Daily Gazette: