Saratoga Travel Alerts

Opening day at Saratoga requires no small amount of preparation under perfect conditions: What to wear? Where to sit? What beer should stock the cooler? How many sandwiches should we bring? What’s the bankroll for the day (gotta plan for 39 more days!)?

Opening day 143, though, looks like it’s going to require even more careful planning than usual, under conditions that are going to be less than perfect—maybe even adverse.

For starters, plan to leave some extra travel time if you’re coming from the south. On July 12…yes, ten days before the start of Saratoga’s busiest time of year…construction began on the exit 14 ramp from and bridge over the north-bound Northway…yes, the very exit located most closely to Saratoga Race Course.

As of this morning, the right lane of the Northway is closed about a mile or so before the exit, and traffic on the ramp itself has been reduced from two lanes to one.

Off the exit and heading up Union Avenue, traffic is routed off the usual west-bound lanes, with two lanes leading west towards the track, and one lane leading east towards Saratoga Lake.

One might hope that in the evenings, travellers will get two east-bound lanes, but I’ve not heard anything to that effect.

Here’s the July 9 story Saratogian story on the construction.

And then, of course, there’s the heat.

Possibly the most miserable day I have ever spent at a racetrack was Street Sense’s Travers.  The track was crowded, the backyard was packed, and brutal heat and humidity made walking to the clubhouse and back an enervating experience. I vividly recall dipping discarded T-shirts (not my own!) into coolers of ice and wrapping them around my head.

And if the current forecast is even close to right (and we can take heart that weather forecasters nail it about as often handicappers are, right?), we’ll be feeling like it’s about 100 degrees as we watch the awesome James Marvin go off late Friday afternoon.

We’ll have to hope that the caretakers of the clubhouse take pity on the gentlemen race fans who will be wearing their obligatory jackets (commenter Lynne on the previous post assures us that such things happen), and make sure that those coolers contain at least some beverages that are neither caffeinated nor alcoholic.

No plans as of now to cancel, and let’s hope that that stays the case, that the weather permits both humans and horses to kick off Saratoga 143 with style, pleasure, and safety.

14 thoughts on “Saratoga Travel Alerts

  1. I remember that day about four or five years ago when they did cancel racing. And I remember a Jim Dandy/Whitney weekend so hot I thought I was going to be someone’s welfare concern. I really hope it’s ok.

    Thanks for the traffic warning!

  2. Having spent more than a decade working for a NYS transportation agency in a previous life, and being very familiar with the intersection of Northway Exit 14 and Route 9P (Union Ave), I’d bet, based on your description, it’s unlikely there will be a change to the lane closures to accommodate two lanes eastbound Union Avenue traffic daily in the evenings. I’m guessing these are permanent lane closures (for this phase of the project) designed to shift traffic for a period of months, since these projects usually entail doing all the work on one side of the bridge (in this case the westbound side), then, when that structure and deck is done, shifting traffic over to the allow work on the other (eastbound) half. I’d also bet, based on traffic studies (and my own experience up there), most of the eastbound Union Avenue traffic is heading for the Northway southbound after the races, so most doesn’t cross the bridge and one lane eastbound over the Northway is probably sufficient.

    The reduction to single lane on the Northway northbound likely will back things up a bit, but the lane reduction on the ramp isn’t really a big change since the lanes split at the intersection with 9P, with the traffic for the track directed to the right lane.

    The good news is that they’re maintaining two westbound lanes over the bridge to handle the traffic coming off the Northway so the maniacs trying to get to parking so they can get their daily double bets in with minutes to spare can zoom ahead of the slower traffic. (Bridge construction notwithstanding, some things never change.)

    Hope there’s at least a bit of a breeze to help keep things as cool as possible up there on Friday!

  3. Leslie, I hope you’re right, but the traffic off the exit on a regular day is already pretty bad. You’ve got only one, instead of two, lanes heading west, and in the evenings, it’s really backed up.

  4. Then your post misstates the situation on the bridge, indicating there are two lanes westbound, one lane eastbound. Either way, it will be a challenge to lose one of the three-lanes on the Northway up there, particularly on Friday with the crush of early weekend travelers heading up to the Adirondacks, Lake George, etc.

    That said, I don’t understand why DOT would have let a project with bid specs that didn’t require preservation of all lanes open on the Northway (and Route 9P at that intersection) during the racing season. In years past, it was a given that no road work that would affect the flow of traffic was allowed on the Northway between Albany and Saratoga during the race meeting.

  5. I have been here since end of June and was amazed at could they not wait until after Labor Day to start such a long term project..This will absolutely be a tough go…I have already seen cars backed up coming off ramp…just unreal

  6. I got off Exit 14 last Saturday night and it was a mess.

    Like Alan said, take Exit 13N, I usually make a right on Crescent Street, take it to Nelson Ave, find a spot and walk in the Wright Street Entrance gate. Just don’t tell everyone this shortcut.

  7. Leslie: the exit ramp is down to one lane. At the fork, when two lanes generally go west, only one is open to traffic. One lane goes west (instead of two), the usual east bound side of the fork is fine.

    Off the ramp, two lanes are open westbound.

    Great, everyone…now exit 13 will be jammed!

    To exit 15 we go!

  8. Honestly I never take 14 unless it’s really early. Or Tuesday. Exit 15 is an excellent alternative as well. You guys don’t know this stuff, saratoga vets like you? 😉

    I wouldn’t even care about this except that I’m sure that 13 will back up too. But route 9 runs parallel to 87 and its pretty clear road once you get north of clifton park. You can get on anywhere from exit 9 on.

  9. Concerning the road project, what they should have looked at doing was run the project from Memorial Day-Wednesday or so and then finished the project after Labor Day. They probably otherwise had to start it now to assure it gets finished before the real bad weather comes late in the fall (and especially given how bad the last two winters have been).

    It looks like they will BARELY be able to get Friday’s card in due to the heat. Personally, I would have announced first post would be 3:30 PM instead of 1:00 to avoid the intense daylight of the early afternoon, wrapping the card up around 8:10-8:15 or so as the sun is setting.

  10. Walt – I agree, start later and avoid the worst of the heat of the daylight and you can still get a full card in before it’s too dark. Colonial Downs has been starting at 5:00, compressed the time between races and has a full card of 10 races done by 9:30. Lights are only needed for the last two, maybe three races, your idea of starting at 3:30 or even 4:00 makes sense and could work.

    Also, someone commented previously that there is no reason to cancel because of heat, as in years’ past they’ve raced at 95 or higher, I think the big difference now is we are wiser about the effects of such high temps and humidity on both the animals and the humans.

  11. Good racing blog. I hope they cancel tomorrow. It is just TOOOOOO humid for man and beast.

    I also saw this blog, with its ’40 Tips for Saratoga’:

    See you at The Spa! hopoe to get up there Wednesday

  12. With so much commentary about routing, please allow me to add my two cents: As to the quizzical timing of our Exit 14 construction, I am not at all surprised having lived/worked through the decades-long North Conduit construction projects leading to Aqueduct Racetrack. It was common, if unsubstantiated, knowledge that someone sympathetic to NYRA had stepped on some politician’s toes sometime after 1970. That a similar misstep occured again prior to 2011 would not surprise me either as that supposed blunder might relate to Saratoga Race Course this year.

    As to alternative routes FROM Saratoga Race Course in the evenings, you might consider one that I plan to use to get home this year. I expect to find my way to Nelson Avenue, drive south to the stop sign at the old Lodge Restaurant and Crescent. Turn left to cross that bridge and head east — drivers eager to drive south can find a narrow southbound ramp that leads to the Northway just before crossing the Crescent bridge (this particular ramp has its own story).

    It’s worth a try. If you’re interested, give it a look as soon as you can.

  13. Thanks, Teresa. Was having trouble picturing the ramp change. Media in the region are touting using Exit 13N northbound to avoid the bottleneck at 14. Somewhat more complicated access to Union Ave, but if you know the short cuts, it’s probably a better choice after 10:30am.

    Ah, Marshall, yours is the best kept escape secret to access the Northway southbound. It has been my preferred departure route for years since I usually park in a private lot on a side street off Nelson. I’d love to hear the story of that “orphan” ramp’s origins sometime. I don’t recall it and I’m sure it’s a doozie!

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