"Complete Streets" policy requires that a municipal roadway accommodate all users — cars, buses, bicyclists, pedestrians — regardless of age or ability. Some Delaware Avenue residents are meeting this hour at Bethlehem Town Hall, with a "road diet" in mind.
The stretch of Delaware Avenue from the Normanskill Bridge to Elsmere Avenue in the Albany suburb is long overdue for a makeover. The growing town is home to more and more people who would prefer to bike or walk what has become the "Main Street" of Bethlehem.
Residents of Albany and Saratoga Springs are familiar with "Complete Streets." The plan encompasses principles like improving sidewalks, installing bike lanes and erecting shelters at bus stops. It's meant to make travel through a section of town easier for all.
The planning study is jointly sponsored by the town of Bethlehem and CDTC, the Capital District Transportation Committee. The idea is to examine the range of various configurations that could be applied to the highway and decide not only which would work best, but which design would get the most support from local residents and businesses.
CDTC Executive Director Michael Franchini: "You start looking at, you know, pedestrian safety. You start looking at bicycle safety and trying to improve access by pedestrians and bicyclists, even transit, because there is transit on Delaware Avenue, and trying to improve access for transit riders. It's better, it's a little more involved, it's more benefits for the cost, and you design it for more than just vehicles."
After four years of public meetings and planning, the first phase of Albany's Madison Avenue “road diet” became a reality in August 2016. The flow of traffic along Madison Avenue has been re-channeled. Gone are the old four lanes, replaced by a three-lane configuration: one in each direction separated by a central turning lane. Franchini says the city's initiative is one of the models the town has in mind. "We actually have it in our presentation tonight, as one of the examples of what can be done with a road to make it more friendly for more users. Madison Ave is a good example, but Fuller Road in Albany, or in Colonie, between Washington and Western and Central Avenue. That used to be a four-lane road throughout that section. Albany County reduced it to two lanes in one section, one through lane and two in another, so, there are a lot of examples of re-purposing roads and travel lanes to make them just more friendly for all users."
Senior Transportation Planner Anne Benware: "Delaware Ave is a main travel route, there are many neighborhoods surrounding it, new businesses, existing businesses that've been there for a long time. There's quite an opportunity to re-think how the street functions and looks."
The planning involves several agencies, including CDTA and the New York State DOT. Franchini expects the study will be complete by fall. There are variables affecting the timeline. Franchini says first, the municipality will have to find to find financing. "A project like this does involve some design work, because you would be re-striping. So there'd be a little more detail work, a little more engineering, a little more design, before you could start construction."
The meeting at Town Hall runs until 8 o'clock — still time to stop by and add your input for reshaping the heavily-traveled corridor.