Albany Bicycle Coalition joined many other Safe Streets Coalition members at today’s [10/3/22] NYS Assembly Transportation Committee Hearing on Complete Streets. Under consideration were two bills not passed last session that would expand the types of road projects that are given Complete Streets consideration.
I spoke with respect to Assembly Member Rivera’s bill. That bill includes, when possible, Complete Sstreet design features in resurfacing, maintenance, and pavement recycling projects and further enable safe access to public roads for all users. My comments to the Committee appear below.
The second bill considered at the hearing (Barret/A08624) will expand the state’s current complete street design principles policy to include all state, county and local transportation projects that are undertaken by the DOT or receive federal, state or both federal and state funding. Meanwhile, our local Assembly Member Pat Fahy has a bill (A8936/S3897) for additional state funding for Complete Streets that was passed by both the Assembly and the Senate but is not yet signed by Governor Hochul. Assembly Transportation Chair Magnarelli expressed his hope that it will be signed soon. We ask that all our readers contact the Governor’s Office encouraging her to sign that bill (call: 518-474-8390).
There were several other local participants. Our friend Patty Sawyer was among the mothers of victims of traffic violence who attended. Guilderland Town Planner, Kenneth Kovalchik spoke to barriers thrown up to Complete Streets efforts in Guilderland/Crossgates projects and the Delaware Avenue Road Diet Project. Ken Grey, Chair of the Complete Streets Advisory Board in Saratoga Springs spoke to efforts there and in favor of the bills. Jeff Olson, a local e-charging entrepreneur with long experience in transportation spoke in favor of the bills and the need to avoid letting the mania for EV’s turn our roads into havens for killer EV monster trucks. NY Bicycle Coalition Board Member and Albany resident Rosanna Coto-Batras also spoke eloquently of the need for the bills.
If the bills get out of committee, I expect there will be some changes. The unfounded fear is that nobody will be able to fill a pothole without a Complete Streets study.
President, Albany Bicycle Coalition
389 McCormack Road
Albany, NY 12208
I am Edward Brennan. I am a resident of the City of Albany. In March of this year our Common Council voted unanimously in support of the passage of these Complete Streets bills as contained in the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act package. I am also President of the Albany Bicycle Coalition. Our not-for-profit organization has been promoting bicycling and bicycle and pedestrian safety in the Capital Region since 2004.
Every year we hold a local Ride of Silence along with organizations throughout the world remembering cyclists that perished on public roads. Last year we began our ride with a service remembering over 40 cyclists, pedestrians and motorists that have died since the year 2000 on nearby Central Avenue that connects Albany and Schenectady.
Central Avenue is something of a poster child for the need for Complete Streets in the Capital Region. After so many deaths NYSDOT conducted a Central Avenue Pedestrian Safety Study that was published in 2015. Some changes were implemented but deaths have continued. I don’t doubt that it will take significant changes and probably large expenditures to make Central Avenue significantly safer.
My testimony however relates to Rapp Road, which is a road that many could use to avoid Central Avenue to get between the Town of Colonie and Albany and between Guilderland and Colonie. Making Rapp Road significantly safer would have been much less of an effort than fixing Central Avenue.Rapp Road becomes Lincoln Avenue in Colonie where it intersects with Central Avenue to the North.Rapp Road leads to Crossgates Mall, an important shopping center to the South.Rapp Road goes through the Albany Pine Bush, a unique ecological area that has hiking paths connecting to both sides of Rapp Road and hikers can often be seen along Rapp Road going from one footpath to another.Rapp Road overpasses the NYS Thruway/Interstate 90 with a wide shoulder that is relatively safe for cyclists and pedestriansRapp Road is an endpoint for the Six Mile Waterworks Multiuse Path that allows cyclists and pedestrians to safely go under The Northway/Interstate 87
Safe places for cyclists and pedestrians to cross Interstates deserve special mention because they are so few and far between and require significant capital expenditures.
One of the 40 plus persons we commemorated at our last ride of silence was 39-year-old Jeremy Williams who was struck and killed on Central Avenue while trying to cycle through the Central Avenue Interchange with the Northway. Making safe bike-ped crossings of Interstates isn’t cheap. Where such safe crossings have been created you would think there would be reasonable efforts made to make them more useful.
The problem with this particular 0.6-mile segment of Rapp Road is that it gets a great deal of traffic and has a windy section with little or no shoulder. Years ago, we saw Rapp Road was long overdue for some kind of major repair. We wrote to our Mayor, sent many e-mails, spoke to local transportation officials and distributed a pamphlet we made about the need to improve safety along this short stretch of Rapp Road.
We were surprised one day to find a project started. The road was milled down and quickly repaved. We had no warning or chance for input though we had made ourselves pests about the road for years. There was no meaningful change to the shoulder. Now motor vehicles have a fresh smooth surface facilitating higher speeds which are perhaps more dangerous to other users. Unless someone dies here, I doubt the road will be looked at again for the next 20 years.
We need to expand Complete Streets considerations to projects like Rapp Road so we are not missing so many important opportunities to improve transportation safety. Maintenance, Resurfacing, and Pavement Recycling Projects that extend the life of roadways make economic sense. A Complete Streets perspective is still essential to make sure that extending the life of a roadway isn’t unnecessarily extending existing dangers to the lives of those that use those roadways.