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Bethlehem's Comprehensive Plan And Complete Streets Initiatives To Be Discussed

Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven

Public meetings on two initiatives impacting the Albany County Town of Bethlehem are set for this week.

The town's Comprehensive Plan and “Delaware Avenue Complete Streets” will be discussed tonight and Wednesday, respectively.

The Comprehensive Plan Update Committee will meet via Zoom tonight at 6 p.m. The original plan was created in 2004. Democratic Town Supervisor David VanLuven says meeting agenda includes complete update details plus a recap of feedback received from a previous public meeting.

"We have a wonderful advisory committee composed of, I think about 15 residents. And we've brought in a professional planning firm to help us prepare the plan update. And right now we're in the phase of really working together on a clear vision statement. What do we love about that'll happen at seven hamlets? What do we want Bethlehem to be 15, 20 years from now? And what are the steps that we need to take to get there. So it's an intensive, community based process for really visioning our town and ensuring that as we grow, we grow in the ways that we want."

VanLuven adds a 2035 Vision Statement, based on the value statements and public feedback received, will be reviewed and discussed. The meeting will be streamed via the town website and Facebook.

VanLuven expects heavy public participation for Wednesday evening's town board meeting, which has several items on the agenda, one of which is moving forward with the next step of the Delaware Avenue Complete Streets project. VanLuven says the stretch of Delaware between Elsmere Avenue and the Normanskill Bridge historically has seen an unusually high number of car accidents and is a danger to pedestrians.

"There only two crosswalks on that stretch of road and they're more than half a mile apart. It’s not attractive for new businesses. When new businesses have been contacting our economic development coordinator about moving to Delaware Avenue, they want to be on the park near the four corners that's walkable, and they're not drawn to this other area."

VanLuven says the idea is to calm traffic while making the area more walkable and bike-friendly. The town worked with the New York State Department of Transportation to arrive at a design plan.

"The design that has been that has proven successful across the country is what's called the ‘Complete Streets’ design. And in our case, it would be taking this four lane 40 mile an hour stretch of road, making it into one lane in each direction, a center turning lane and then very wide shoulders. And that would make it easier for cars to proceed down the road, we’d lower the speed limit as well. It would make it safer for cyclists who could use the wide shoulder. And it makes it safer for cars making turns and would also allow us to put crosswalks in between the two current crosswalks, so that people could get from neighborhoods to local businesses and neighborhoods over to the rail trail to get to other parts of town."

VanLuven says the meeting will cover three potential options for reconfiguring Delaware Avenue.

“One is leaving the road exactly the way it is now: four lanes 40 miles an hour. The second is a partial ‘Complete Streets,’ which are you'd have two lanes coming from Albany into Bethlehem and one lane going from Bethlehem into Albany. It's a major commuter corridor. And then the third option would be the full ‘Complete Streets’ package, which would be center turning lane, one lane in each direction and extra wide shoulders.”

VanLuven notes the project is being almost entirely funded by the state and federal government. The town will cover about 20% of the cost, projected to be about $728,000.

The virtual session begins Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and the Town Board Meeting starts streaming at 6 p.m.

Residents are invited to weigh in during the public comment section by registering to attend the meeting via Zoom. Here's the link to register.  The public may also submit comments directly to the Board members anytime via email to townboard@townofbethlehem.org

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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