After many years of sitting as a vacant eyesore, the former Ferroxcube site on Kings Highway across the street from the abandoned American Candle Manufacturing plant could see another tenant join the soon-to-be-constructed Spinnenweber Supply Company pipe yard.
Kapsch, an Austrian software vendor that specializes in software, readers, and tags used by highway tolling agencies, wants to build an enclosed area where software and equipment would be tested under real-life conditions by driving cars under a 30-foot overhead gantry simulating a toll plaza.
The proposal would need approval from the county and town planning boards.
Longtime Saugerties resident and Kapsch employee John Emerick says the company chose Saugerties because of its prime location. “We make all of the software and tags for E-ZPass,” he said. “New York is central to the E-ZPass universe.”
Kapsch makes many of the components in the E-ZPass system. These include the tags, sensors and software that allow an agency like the New York State Thruway Authority to collect tolls from users.
“There are so many different components needed just to make an E-ZPass work,” Emerick said. “We need to be able to test them to make sure they work together in all kinds of real-life scenarios.”
After receiving a building permit, Kapsch began preliminary cleanup work at a 450-by-100-foot lot where Kapsch employees would test cars in various scenarios at up to 30 mph under all sorts of weather conditions. It would join an existing test site in Dallas.
Emerick rattled off many scenarios Kapsch must account for when designing components, including a driver that has two tags in their car, a driver that goes through an E-ZPass lane without a tag, tailgating, different levels of lighting, and countless other scenarios like cars entering parallel lanes at the exact same time.
“If a client reports that something goes wrong with the software, we try to recreate the exact scenario that caused the malfunction back at the test site,” he said.
When planners expressed concern about noise, traffic and lighting, Emerick replied,
“We will only have three to five cars in there most of the time. Mostly we’ll drive our own cars in and do testing for one or two hours, and then we’ll leave.”
He estimates testing would occur approximately one week per month and never at night.
He ensured the board that gantry-mounted strobe lights like those found in E-ZPass lanes would not be visible from Kings Highway.
“The only visible lighting will be four downward-facing lights for security,” he said.
He reassured board members that noise would not be an issue.
“Cars will never exceed 30 mph, and sound levels will never exceed the noise made by the heavy traffic on Kings Highway and trains on the busy parallel CSX rail line,” he said.
E-ZPass tags and other equipment will not be manufactured at the site—it’s only for testing.
“We make the E-ZPass tags in Canada,” he added.
The proposed test site would complement an existing office the company opened on Grant Avenue in the town of Ulster last May.