Town will remove gate barricading Empire Avenue

A gate closing off through traffic on Empire Avenue

The Enterprise — Michael Koff 
A gate closing off through traffic on Empire Avenue is soon to be removed. 

GUILDERLAND — A barricade that has extended straight across a town road for 17 years is set to come down.

The barricade crosses Empire Avenue, just west of Jean Place. 

Empire Avenue lies between Lydius Street and Carman Road, with Fuller Station Road off to the east. The barricade has stood on the roadway since 2002. 

Installed about when the Crimson Park subdivision was built, the fence was originally at the woodline. But, after a few years, when the road was extended, the barricade kept Empire Avenue from becoming a through road for drivers headed to either Lydius or Carman roads.

At the time the barricade was erected, Empire Avenue ended at the woodline, and the barrier was intended to keep drivers from heading into the woods, said Guilderland Highway Superintendent Gregory Wier. 

In 2007, Wier said, another subdivision, Essex Woods, was proposed, and its construction would mean extending both Jean Place and Empire Avenue. 

Some residents in 2007 had concerns about Empire Avenue becoming a shortcut for drivers traveling through the area, so keeping the barrier — now across the roadway, rather than at the woodline — became a condition of the approval process. 

When that was done, the barricade was intended to be temporary, Wier said. People assumed that, at some point, Empire Avenue would be extended to meet Fuller Station Road, and that the fence would come down then. But Empire Avenue was never extended.

“In a nutshell, here we are 15 years later,” Wier said. 

Years ago, the barricade was changed to a swing gate that stretched across the road, instead of a permanent barrier, because of concerns about whether firefighters would be able to access all the houses on the  street. 

Recently, residents had been divided, Wier said, about whether the gate was needed to control traffic, or whether it was a safety concern that would slow firefighters.

“There are no other gates like that on town roads,” Wier told The Enterprise. 

Wier met with residents on both sides of the issue in June, he said, including residents worried about the safety of children or people walking dogs. Together, he said, they decided to remove the gate while adding a number of measures designed to slow traffic. 

Two stop signs have already been added at the three-way intersection of Ronald Place and Jean Place, where only one stop sign had stood before. This was a change, Wier said, that he had requested of the town’s traffic-safety committee, and that it had approved and sent to the town board for its approval. The board unanimously approved the request on Aug. 13. 

The highway department will also add extra speed-limit signs in the area, Wier said. 

He cannot put up “Children at Play” signs, he said, because those signs are intended only for areas where drivers would not reasonably expect children to be playing. As an example, he said that a “Children at Play” sign could be put up if someone built a daycare inside the industrial park. 

“The rule has always been in place,” Wier said, “but it’s been easier, if people make the request, to put them up. So ‘Children at Play’ signs are all over town.” 

He has seen a different type of sign that he now plans to have made at the town’s sign shop and install on Jean Place, reading, “Children in Area,” he said. 

The highway department also plans, in response to a request from residents, to remove the yellow striping that exists on one part of the roadway. “The yellow striping made it look like more of a thoroughfare,” he said. 

Several years ago, Wier said, when Steve Oliver was highway superintendent, a change was made to keep the gate open during winter, to make it easier to plow. 

“So the gate was open mid-November to mid-April,” Wier said. “It was kind of crazy, because they literally went out in the morning and then came home at night and it was closed,” referring to what could happen to drivers at the time of the seasonal change. 

“It’s a balancing act,” said Wier, making sure that residents feel safe walking on the road and ensuring that first responders can get to them in an emergency. 

Resident Diane Mucchigrosso said she was “thrilled” to hear that the barrier was coming down. “I think it’s the intent of neighborhoods — to have people connected,” she said, “not kept apart.” 

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