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Albany Madison Avenue Road Diet: Phase Two

A successful radical remake along a busy stretch of Albany’s Madison Avenue will extend to where the street meets Lark and Delaware further downtown. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas was at the College of St. Rose Thursday night for a public meeting on phase two of the “road diet.”

The Complete Streets Plan was implemented to make Madison Avenue safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles.  Officials say they were able to reduce the original three-stage plan down to two.

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

Fresh lines were painted along Madison Avenue, from South Allen Street to Partridge Street, which included bike lanes, one in each direction. Timed signals keep traffic flowing steadily, but more slowly. ADA compliant pedestrian crossings have walk signals that display countdown times.

Jeff Pangburn of Creighton Manning Engineering says phase two begins in July; it will bring the new configuration all the way downtown.  "It is more than what phase one was. We're lucky that DGS, Department of General Services, was able to secure additional federal funding beyond the New York State DOT Highway Safety Improvement Funding through Governor Cuomo. This project actually received one of the region's SAFE NY specialty funding programs, 100 percent state-funded a portion of this job with no city match required, which is very rare, so it was a great partnership we'll get into towards the end. But also the typical 80 percent state, excuse me, federal highways, 15 percent state, only 5 percent city funding for a good portion fom Lake all the way to Lark. And then the remaining portion from Partridge to Lake the city administration decided to fund 100 percent with city funding to get that last gap done. It was a small bridge to gap with all those additional funding sources. So the Common Council went to bat for this project for this quarter and wanted to see it get done in one shot."

 Leah Golby sponsored Albany’s 2013 Complete Streets ordinance.
Credit WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
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Albany’s 10th ward Council Member Leah Golby, sponsor of the city’s 2013 Complete Streets ordinance, attended the meeting.

The entire project will be complete by year's end. Common Council member Leah Golby has been a leading proponent of the project.  "There were increases in travel time at first. They were able to adjust the lights so that the travel time is easier for the people who do drive on it, and other people have told me they've just decided to start taking the bus, which I think is great too!"

Golby says this is a great pilot project to use as a blueprint for rethinking other city streets.

Capital Region Complete Streets spokesperson Rossana Coto-Batres lauds the new bike lane. She says it’s much easier to navigate as a cyclist.  " And as soon as it ends on Partridge Street, I feel like cars just kind of don't know where to go, and so it felt really unsafe after that. So now seeing that its gonna go all the way down to Lark Street, it will just make it easier for cyclists to go all the way down to the park, to Downtube, cause a lot of people ride their bikes to the Downtube to get any repairs done, so I think it'll just be a lot easier for people to come up and down Madison Avenue."

Not everyone is pleased with the change: during public comments some residents expressed concerns about the sheer volume of traffic, including emergency vehicles and city buses, as well as delivery trucks that block traffic lanes on a daily basis. Creighton Manning officials replied delivery vehicles will likely park in the center turning lane where they won't block traffic, while every CDTA stop will accommodate buses pulling out of the traffic lane to the curb.

Improvements planned include re-paving certain sections, widening driveway aprons, installing new signage and sidewalks, upgrading traffic signals, removing existing parking spaces deemed too close to intersections to enhance visibility and replacing buried natural gas lines between Partridge and Ontario Streets.

Officials concede vehicular traffic will be “calmed down.” They say some rush-hour delays are likely, a small price to pay for added pedestrian and bicycle safety.

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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