Town of Ulster looks to update town traffic plan

The Town of Ulster is looking into updating a traffic plan that’s nearly three decades old, though officials stressed that it could be some time before any strategy comes to fruition.

Updating the traffic plan was discussed during a Sept. 19 town board meeting, in part due to concerns raised a month earlier by former councilman John Ianotti about conditional site plan approval being granted for Kingswood Plaza on Ulster Avenue and other new development.

In an Aug. 24 letter to the town board, Supervisor James Quigley III said that he’d spoken to David Corrigan, the acting resident engineer at the state Department of Transportation’s Kingston office about the issue, which identified some of the issues which might factor into an updated plan: The stretch of 9W which services the town’s primary retail corridor was originally a two-lane road. When the lanes were doubled, buildings erected in the 1960s and early 1970s lost frontage; further loss could be the result of any effort to meet traffic issues by adding space for a solid concrete median or turning lane. The 1990 plan was developed by Roger Creighton and Associates, Inc., and work throughout the Town during that decade was based on that plan.

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But the Town of Ulster has changed considerably over the past 29 years. At the time of the 1990 traffic plan, IBM was still active at what is now TechCity; the Hudson Valley Mall was also much busier than it is today. Since then, numerous large retail developments have arisen along the same stretch of road, leading to often busier and more frantic traffic. According to Quigley, many accidents in the area occur at signalized intersections where drivers try to beat the light without realizing that traffic lights for vehicles moving in the opposite direction might be differently timed.

“We’ve had a number of people complaining [about traffic on Ulster Avenue], and it’s been for probably the last 30 years,” said Quigley this week, noting that the plan was never wholly effective. “I came upon this traffic plan from the ’90s, I looked at it, I read it. It is outdated. The gross assumptions are inaccurate. It never turned out this way and it would be a good idea to go back and revisit it.”

During a conversation with Ulster County Transportation Council Chairman Dennis Doyle, Quigley said it was determined that a traffic study might fall under the purview of the county and would therefore qualify for consideration as a planning project in 2020.

“And since I’ve never turned down a free lunch before, I felt that if they’re willing to undertake this exercise and allow the town a fair amount of input on it as to what we want to do … well then let’s go for it.”

Quigley said that the study could take up to two years to complete should it move forward with the county. 

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