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Northway jam catches many off guard
HALFMOON -- Down to a crawl. A traffic nightmare on the Northway this morning after a construction glitch backed up traffic for miles. It's not the first time this has happened, but some drivers say this time around -- the state Department of Transportation did not give any warning. It's a complaint we've looked into before.
We put the tough questions to the Region One spokesman after drivers sat in big traffic back-ups for miles. We've learned they're not the only ones who have a price to pay.
"This morning we did not know there was going to be any kind of back-up," said Mike McEvoy, Saratoga County EMS Coordinator and shift supervisor at the Clifton Park/Halfmoon Ambulance Corps. "That was not something that was conveyed to us."
When traffic is snarled on area arteries, ambulance corps responders take the route less traveled. But, our cameras spotted an ambulance heading to an Albany hospital this morning, we're told, crawling along with the rest of the cars.
"Obviously, there was a delay which causes a problem in making that ambulance available again to answer more calls," McEvoy said.
They are typically notified by the DOT of incidents, especially on the Northway.
"Since January, we've had a contractor up there doing overnight work in the off-peak hours when traffic is lightest to do prep work for the upcoming spring work of the Twin Bridges project that we saw last fall," said Bryan Viggiani, Region 1 spokesman. What happened last night was the project went longer than anticipated.
A milling project ran in to a problem. The patient in that ambulance was not affected, were told, but it did take the rig out of the district longer than responders would have liked. That traffic made a lot of drivers late for work. Our cameras caught traffic backed up for miles.
Construction is supposed to be wrapped up before the rush hour and because it was not, the DOT tells me Lane Construction, the contractor on the work leading up to the Twin Bridges, will be fined $2,750.
Other drivers complained they didn't know of traffic delays, either. The DOT says they should have been, because overhead signs were lit alerting drivers. One sign we spotted on the side of the road was not.
I guess those just weren't being used for this incident, Viggiani said. It's the type of thing we could certainly look in to.
We did find signs lit much later in the morning, after rush hour. Crews were working and blocking lanes heading south from exit 8.
The DOT says it is looking in to its system of notifying first responders. They all have back-up plans for traffic on the Northway or elsewhere.
Also, there is a question over who's sign we saw on the side of the road. The DOT says it could have been the contractors, but that still doesn't explain why it didn't alert drivers to trouble.
Construction crews will ramp up by the end of April on the Twin Bridges. The DOT says it will be certain to give proper updates for travelers when that happens. Like last year, weekend work will be finished by rush hour Monday morning. "We'll have the northbound traffic on the northbound bridge because that's the bridge that was done in the fall," Viggiani said. "The southbound traffic will be switched over to the northbound side."
That's welcome news to first responders, many of whom have to transport patients to Albany.
"Virtually all of our ambulances from Saratoga County need to go over the Twin Bridges or on Route 9," McEvoy said.