State consulted in connector study

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County officials recently met with two state agencies to determine if their plans interfere with or affect building a “connector” highway from Fultonville to an area near the Johnstown Industrial Park.

Fulton County supervisors in February authorized a $492,500 contract with M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying of Clifton Park to conduct a study of the feasibility of building the highway. That study is currently underway. Officials say the highway could spur economic development.

The county is studying a possible state Thruway “connector” highway heading north from Montgomery County. The roughly 3.5-mile highway starting near the Thruway could let vehicles bypass the villages of Fultonville and Fonda on their way north toward Johnstown.

A grant will pay for $400,000 of the study’s cost. Fulton County in 2013 received the $400,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program to pay the cost of hiring an engineer to evaluate the feasibility and cost of constructing a new road. The county’s 2014 capital budget contains a $100,000 appropriation as the local share.

Montgomery County officials have not formally supported the project or committed funding for it.

Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz said Tuesday a local connector highway team, which he is on, met with officials from the state Thruway Authority and the state Canal Corporation, one of the authority’s subsidiaries. He said any changes planned by these agencies might affect the connector project.

Mraz said the local team wanted to know if the Thruway Authority has any plans to change the location of Thruway Exit 28 in Fultonville, or to change the locations of toll booths. He said the authority indicated there are no planned changes.

Mraz said the team also met with the Canal Corporation regarding potential construction of a new bridge across the Mohawk River.

“There’s been those kind of issues,” the planning official said.

Fulton County Superintendent of Highways and Facilities Mark Yost, also a member of the local team, said Tuesday a long-term goal of the state is to have high-speed exits on the Thruway. He said if the state is going to make changes near its Thruway exits, they may want to incorporate local projects receiving federal funding, such as this connector highway project.

“We’re hoping they look at it also,” Yost said.

Yost said building the bypass will cost money, but the offshoot will be more than three miles of new road through Montgomery County that could spur more business development.

“That’s the only way Fulton County is going to get any money from the feds on this is if you can show you’re going to get a return,” Yost said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.