It seems all eyes are on New Scotland Avenue. This week, the busy Albany street has garnered attention on several fronts.
Monday, officials updated residents on a $100,000 traffic study of the New Scotland/Buckingham/Krumkill Corridor.
At a Tuesday planning board meeting, citizens voiced concerns about proposed development across from St. Peter's Hospital. Wednesday evening the board held a variance meeting on the same topic. Across town a community meeting at Martel's restaurant heard neighbors’ concerns over construction at the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision training academy.
Thursday night the public got its first look at final plans for the Streetscape Enhancement Project spanning two blocks from Ontario to Quail Street.
Improvements include new LED streetlights, curbs, expanded walkways to accommodate sidewalk cafes and a two-tiered curb with improved roadway drainage.
Linyao Longacker is the project's landscape designer. "We are trying to create a pedestrian-friendly society and community for the people who live there. And widening the sidewalk creates more environmentally friendly space like patio space, especially in the summertime. People want to eat outside and have coffee outside. And also you have a 6-foot space for people to walk by and not interfere with people who are sitting down."
The sidewalk/curb configuration would be extended out into the street and the center line would be moved a few feet. Corners will be reconfigured. Solar-powered flashing pedestrian-activated traffic beacons, like those operating near Albany Medical Center, will be installed at the four corners where Grove Avenue intersects New Scotland.
Unlike the stretch being reimagined up by St. Peter's, bicyclists will have to share lanes with motor vehicles. City of Albany Director of Planning Chris Spencer: "There's only so much road width to deal with, so the share-all is really a shared bicycle/vehicle lane, and I think the traffic speeds in that area make that appropriate. Obviously if we had a much wider street, a much wider right-of-way, we would love to do a separated bike lane, but there's just not an option there. So you have to look at those balances."
Construction will be accomplished in three phases. Longacker says it won't be long before people can enjoy dinner and coffee outdoors along the street. "We are gonna start soon and the summer will be ongoing. But it probably will be finished towards the end of summer, the beginning of the fall, you know with everything going on. It's not just the streetscape. We also have utility stuff underneath, and also all the traffic, we'll have to do traffic control."
Spencer is satisfied with the final plan. "It addresses everybody in some way. Obviously, businesses would probably like to have more dining area. Some people would like to have more parking, they'd like to have diagonal parking so we could have more parking. The bicycle community would love to have a separated lane. So addressing everything means compromise. And I think this is a really good compromise, good balance, and I really think it meets the needs of the community and the business district."
Still to be determined: establishing handicap parking spots near curb cuts and possibly moving the bus stop. The first of three construction phases is set to begin within a few weeks.