By LEVI PASCHER
Sacandaga Express

JOHNSTOWN — Engineers have identified three possible routes for a proposed connector highway from the Thruway to Fulton County as being potentially feasible, according to a recently released study.
Fulton County Planning Department officials said last week that a public information meeting will be held Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Fulton-Montgomery Community College theater, which will include a presentation from MJ Engineering and Land Surveying on the draft Fonda Connector Feasibility Study. 
Following the presentation there will be a period for public comments, along with an opportunity to submit written comments. The upcoming meeting at FMCC will be the second public meeting held on the study, the first coming in September 2014.
The draft study, which totals more than 150 pages, can be viewed or downloaded from the study’s website at fondaconnector.com.
James Mraz, director of the Fulton County Planning Department, said MJ Engineering representatives will articulate how information was gathered regarding each of the 11 alternatives presented at the first public information meeting.
Mraz said the engineering firm reviewed the data and analyzed each proposed alternative compared against the project goals and objectives.
The study aims to identify potential routes for tractor trailers to use between Thruway Exit 28 in the village of Fultonville and the Johnstown Industrial Park that would minimize stop-and-go travel for tractor trailers and reduce truck traffic through the villages of Fonda and Fultonville.
Another study goal is to improve the quality of life for village residents by reducing vehicular emissions and noise pollution, along with providing safer travel for vehicles and pedestrians.
The last study objective is to identify potential economic development opportunities in the vicinity of the potential alternative routes.
“The next phase of this project would be conducting detailed environmental reviews of all three alternatives to clarify which of these routes is really the best,” Mraz said. “If this is ever pursued this project would lead to the creation of a state road that would eventually be handled by the state. At this stage right now, it is a feasibility study and no decision has been made.”
The westernmost route, Alternative B, would use both the existing route from Thruway Exit 28 and a new connector road. It would travel west on Riverside Drive and north on Bridge Street, utilizing the existing bridge. The new connector roadway would began at the intersection of Bridge Street and Route 5 then generally travel northwest to Route 30A at the border of Montgomery and Fulton counties.
This alternative is the shortest route of those remaining, totaling 3.3 miles, and is the only one not requiring the construction of a new bridge over the Mohawk River.
In the proximity of the Fonda-Fultonville Central School campus, the new connector road in Alternative B would be constructed below the existing ground elevation for approximately 2,500 feet, which would assist in minimizing noise pollution in that area, according to the study.
Alternative E1 begins at Thruway Exit 28 and goes east on Riverside Drive for approximately .33 miles, and would then progress north on a new bridge constructed over the Mohawk River, CSX Railroad lines, and Route 5. The connector road would continue north “through wooded areas and open fields, intersecting Old Trail Road at-grade approximately .3 miles east of Switzer Hill Road, to a point just northeast of Cable Road where the connector road turns west until it intersects Johnstown Industrial Park at the intersection of Opportunity Drive and Route 30A (Old Plank Road),” according to the study.
The last route identified as being potentially feasible is Alternative F1, which begins at the same location as the other two and then, similar to Alternative E1, goes east on Riverside Drive for almost three quarters of a mile. It would also then progress north on a newly constructed bridge. This connector road would turn west then north to intersect Old Trail Road at-grade approximately .3 miles east of Switzer Hill Road. The roadway would progress north “to a point just northeast of Cable Road where the connector road turns west until it intersects Johnstown Industrial Park at the intersection of Opportunity Drive and Route 30A (Old Plank Road),” according to the study.
Alternative B is estimated to hold a project cost of approximately $53.3 million, which is well below alternatives E1 and F1, at $104.7 million and $119.9 million, respectively. Also included were cost projections for construction starting in 2023, which increased the range from $62.7 million to $142 million.
Mraz contends there is no “preferred route” in the three alternatives.
The draft report will likely be edited, modified, updated and corrected based upon input received at the upcoming meeting, written comments and internal reviews, according to Mraz.
“These right now are just general locations and they could be altered in future phases once environmental impacts and other issues are identified,” Mraz said. “It could shift a few hundred or a thousand feet depending on the information we are provided through this process. The specific routing of this could change as they get into the details of designing these routes.”