Albany's claim as a "walkable and bikeable" city has been kicked up a notch, with the completion of the Madison Avenue Street Calming Project.
City officials, members of the cycling community and neighborhood residents recently assembled to celebrate the end of construction along Madison Avenue between Partridge Street and the Lark Street-Delaware Avenue intersection.
A 2013 report produced by engineering firm Creighton Manning recommended options to accommodate cyclists including designating exclusive bike lanes on select Albany streets.
Virginia Hammer, President of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association, voiced support for change along Madison Avenue back in 2004. "In order to convince people about this very new idea, we had to show facts and figures, diagrams, maps, everything. And we had to go up and down this corridor, to every neighborhood meeting, every institution, to get support for what we knew was going to be pretty much of an uphill battle."
There were meetings, brainstorming sessions, presentations – including a public meeting at the Linda, WAMC’s Performing Art Studio – to compile a city-wide Complete Streets Policy and Design Manual. Then came the Complete Streets Plan, implemented to make Madison Avenue safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles.
Phase one of the project was completed in early 2017.
"We have a project that I think is the model that we can be using, going forward." Mayor Kathy Sheehan says Phase Two was finished nearly two years ahead of schedule. "It has transformed this corridor into a safer, more walkable and bikeable neighborhood by adding bike lanes, by calming traffic and by ensuring that this is safe for people who are riding the buses, who are utilizing the parks and who want to get up and down this corridor to enjoy all of the things that this Madison Avenue corridor has to offer, with two phenomenal business districts, with some smaller business districts in between. It really is a phenomenal asset here in the city of Albany."
Bike lanes have been added while traffic lanes were reduced from four to two with a central turning lane along Madison Avenue, from South Allen Street to Lark. Officials say timed signals keep traffic flowing steadily, but slower. ADA compliant pedestrian crossings have walk signals that display countdown times. The upgrade has resulted in a continuous traffic pattern along more than 1.5 miles of Madison Avenue.
Federal, state and city money funded the project. Executive deputy commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation Ron Epstein says similar projects are underway across the region. "We've got projects going on here not only in Albany, but in Guilderland, in Menands, in Schenectady, and this is re-enforcing our commitment to ensure that these pedestrians and bicyclists are safe. We're investing more than $3.5 million in this region right now, with additional investment to come."
The Pine Hills Neighborhood Association’s Zoning and Code Enforcement Committee Co-Chair Leah Golby was recognized for her role. The former Albany Common Councilor was one of the strongest "road-diet" advocates. "It's really terrific to see the lanes all the way down the corridor from Allen Street to Lark Street to be able to travel the corridor, which I've done several times now, over the past few days, since it's been completed. Positive impacts on businesses and storefronts that road diets have brought in city after city is something that we're really hoping, especially in the midtown Pine Hills area, where we have many vacant storefronts and struggling storefronts, that we start to see businesses take an interest in those vacant storefronts so we can have the most vibrant neighborhood that we can."
Capital Region Complete Streets spokesperson Rossana Coto-Batres: "I used to not ever ride on Madison Avenue because the road was really bumpy and it had four-lane traffic, but now it just feels a lot easier to be able to get to where I live near Manning Boulevard all the way down to Washington Park and Lark Street, so I think it's great. We're gonna see a lot more people riding bikes with the bike share system, and with the bike lanes now on Madison Avenue."
Remaining work includes installing several traffic signs and green bike lane pavement markings as well as minor sidewalk repairs.