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Albany’s speed hump pilot program continues, with report on early results

A newly installed speed hump at the top of Mount Hope Drive near Southern Boulevard. (September 8, 2022)
Dave Lucas
/
WAMC
A newly installed speed hump at the top of Mount Hope Drive near Southern Boulevard. (September 8, 2022)

A quality of life issue that has dogged some neighborhoods for decades appears to have met its match in Albany's new speed hump program.

The pilot program to calm traffic on busy streets in the city of Albany began in June. Humps have been installed in West Hill along First Street between Ontario Street and Judson Street, Second Street between Judson Street and Manning Boulevard and Third Street between Manning Boulevard and Judson Street.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the initial results are encouraging.

“Speeding on those streets that I identified in West Hill has been reduced from 24% of the time, that's 24% of the cars traveling on those roads were speeding, and that has now been reduced to 3%," said Sheehan. "That's an 88% decrease in the number of speeders on those streets.”

The Democrat says the data was obtained from speed cameras mounted on utility poles throughout the area.

“Oftentimes, you'll see on a street, a sign that tells you how fast you're going," Sheehan said. "Those devices are actually recording people’s speeds. Our traffic engineers then take that data, and they're able to tell, you know, the highest speeds that people are, the lowest speeds that people are going, the average speed that people are going, and that's how we make determinations with respect to various initiatives that we might take to try to address speeding in a particular zone.”

Sheehan spoke Thursday in the South End, where humps were recently installed along Mount Hope Drive between Southern Boulevard and South Pearl Street, a heavily populated residential neighborhood. Mount Hope families have been asking for traffic calming initiatives for more than a decade. About a year and a half ago, 53 residents signed a neighborhood association petition asking the city to address the issue. City Auditor Dorcey Applyrs concedes it has been a long fight to get the humps put in.

“This is, in some instances, a drag race for people, it's a straight shot from the top of the hill to the bottom," said Applyrs. "And without the speed humps, people cut right through this community, completely disregarding the fact that it's a residential community. There are lots of children here. When you think about the built environment, from a public health perspective, there are no sidewalks. And so it is really dangerous.”

Sheehan’s 2022 budget included more than $250,000 to launch the initiative, but she says bids for the work came in at nearly twice as high as expected. She credited additional financial support to cities in the state budget with making the program possible.

“As most of you know, we are working on our 2023 budget," Sheehan said. "And while I don't want to get out ahead of ourselves, I will say that we are advocating for more capital funding in that budget to continue to install speed humps where they make sense.”

The speed hump program could work in tandem with a 25-mile an hour speed limit, after Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill allowing municipalities to lower their speed limits.

“We've got to get people to slow down, and we're not going to be implementing an across the board 25 mile an hour speed limit in the city in the near future," said Sheehan. "This requires us to do a study, we have to look at the various roads in the city of Albany, you know, we have, you know, some of our streets that are four lanes, some that are two lanes, some that are one way. And so we will be engaging in an overall study of our streets and determining where those speed limits should be 25 miles an hour. And I firmly believe that there are many streets in the city of Albany, where the speed limit should be reduced to 25 miles an hour, particularly our one ways, particularly in our highly residential neighborhoods, where that is probably the more appropriate speed limit.”

A proposal to lower the speed limit citywide has been introduced in the Common Council.

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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