Recently, State DOT officials met with local leaders at SUNY Cobleskill to discuss future plans for Route 7 stemming from the bridge replacement at the western gateway to the Village. All kinds of bold new ideas were proposed for the Route 7 corridor from the Hess Station to the bridge. However, nothing is quite as exciting as the proposed roundabout on Route 7 at the intersection near the Hess Station. Honestly, I can’t remember being this excited about DOT repairs since…well ever!
A roundabout is similar in nature to a traffic circle, but not quite the same thing. The main difference being that roundabouts force incoming traffic to yield to traffic already in the roundabout. Traffic circles typically give incoming motorists the right of way.
Though the roundabout has the potential to improve the overall efficiency of intersections, they are not without their disadvantages. Cobleskill should do a lot more research on roundabouts before building one on Route 7.
As a traffic-calming device, roundabouts are all the rage, particularly in fast-growing suburban areas where residents want to slow down traffic. In this regard, a roundabout on Route 7 would force eastbound drivers to slow down as they enter the SUNY Cobleskill area.
There are numerous other benefits as well. Roundabouts have been found to be safer for motorists, as repeated research has found a lower number of accidents at roundabout intersections than at traditional intersections. They also eliminate the need for traffic signals which can range up to $50,000 a year to operate. They also reduce unnecessary vehicle idling which decreases pollution. They also allow motorists more options. If someone misses a destination, they don’t need to turn around backing in and out of traffic; they can simply drive all the way around the roundabout.
However, a major drawback is that roundabouts have been found to be unsafe for pedestrians, particularly bicyclists. They also present problems for the visually impaired as well. These concerns should not prevent roundabouts from being used, but they should be used to weigh the concerns of the community before a roundabout is built.
If prior local issues are any indication, the community-wide debate over the roundabout should be exciting, to say the least.
Aside from the proposed roundabout, local officials and DOT representatives discussed other traffic-calming devices for Route 7 near the SUNY campus, including center medians and landscaping measures.
A major theme discussed by SUNY officials, Dr. Anne Myers in particular, was the idea of developing the area specifically as a Village gateway. Some specific ideas, such as how to design the next bridge for example, were put out there. But there’s a lot more to discuss.
For example, what can be done to make the area more student-friendly? The loss of the P&C supermarket several years ago marked the loss of a major asset for SUNY students.
What are the possibilities of using college-owned land along Route 7 for a small pedestrian-oriented commercial district catering (not exclusively) but largely to college students? There could be a small grocery store, a coffee shop or a restaurant for example. It would provide a place SUNY students could walk to for convenience purchases that would also better link the Village with the college.
These and other concerns need to be brought to bear on the discussion in a forum that includes Village residents and college students in addition to a handful of college officials and local business leaders.