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Traffic Calming Begins Along Madison Avenue In Albany

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

The first phase of Albany's Madison Avenue “road diet” is now a reality.  WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports on the latest step to make the Capital City — and one of its busiest streets — more bike-friendly.

"We have been talking and planning and imagining what Madison Avenue could be like for many years." Mayor Kathy Sheehan beamed as she formally announced that long anticipated "traffic calming" had finally come to one of the city's busiest travel corridors.  "This is a wonderful, liveable, walkable neighborhood, and now it's bikeable."

The new plan, which resulted from four years of public meetings, re-channels the flow of traffic along Madison Avenue. Gone are the old four lanes, replaced by a three-lane configuration: one in each direction separated by a central turning lane.

The fresh lines that have been painted along Madison Avenue, from South Allen Street to Partridge Street, also include bike lanes, one in each direction. Studies forecast the bike-friendly upgrade will encourage more pedestrian traffic as well.  Timed traffic signals will keep traffic flowing steadily, but more slowly. New ADA compliant pedestrian crossings will have walk signals that display countdown times

Once completed, the corridor will extend all the way downtown to Lark Street. For phase one, the city bore between 10 and 20 percent of the overall cost of the project. Most of the money, $475,000, came from federal funding.   "We have really big news today. And that is that the DOT is going to be funding the full amount of phase two, from Partridge to Lark, $1.4 million, which is great news for this project and for our taxpayers," said the mayor.

Sheehan adds that the road diet is a match for people like millennials and empty-nesters, who are moving back into urban areas. Jeff Pangburn, senior project manager at civil engineering firm Creighton Manning, addressed the crowd: "This project took a while, because the administration listened to all the stakeholders, from transit users to pedestrians, bicyclists, obviously, motorists, parkers, the college, so that is the big takeaway from this project, and what we're left with here today is a 'complete street,' and that is key for the administration and one of the city's main visions for the future."

Common Council member Leah Golby has been a strong advocate for cycling and a leading proponent of the project.   "I just wanna see everybody out here, riding their bikes. I can help you learn. I am now a certified instructor, so I can even show you how to feel safe riding your bike on the road."

Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox says he will consider deploying "enforcement details" to help educate pedestrians, cyclists and motorists about changes taking place in Albany.  "We have to enforce when people decide they're not gonna pay attention to the laws and we need to continue to use engineering like this today."

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that police agencies across New York issued more than 1,200 tickets and 1,400 warnings to drivers and pedestrians as the result of a pedestrian safety enforcement campaign from June 20 to July 3.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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