Over 100 local businesses, civics and road safety advocates gathered for solutions to improve the safety and economic growth along Long Island’s roadways. The annual Long Island Complete Streets Summit was hosted by the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in East Farmingdale.
Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender was the keynote speaker highlighting what we need to accomplish on our roadways to truly make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists. She reviewed the state of traffic calming and Complete Streets projects with the challenges and solutions facing municipalities in carry them out.
A work session was held highlighting 5 of LI’s Pedestrian & Bicycle hot spots to identify preliminary recommendations for safety improvements. Those five areas have seen recent deaths or accidents and many of them have planned future growth that would have more folks walking so improvements are needed. Four of these areas are either have planned or actual growth totaling nearly 3,000 units of transit oriented development with an increase in walking and bicycling expected.
Speakers this year included Michael Vitti, C.L.I.M.B.; Sylvia Silberger, Car-Less Long Island; Frank Wefering, GPI / Greenman-Pedersen, Inc..; Pete Kremer, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff; Margaret Kubilins, VHB; Hon. Legislator Laura Curran, Nassau County; Hon. Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, Town of Hempstead; Sean Sallie, Nassau County; Chris Lucas, NV5, Hon. Ralph Ekstrand Mayor, Village of Farmingdale & Hon. Jorge Martinez, Deputy Mayor, Incorporated Village of Freeport, Other municipalities that provided updates included Hon. Valerie M. Cartright, Councilwoman, Town of Brookhaven, Jack Schnirman from the City of Long Beach and the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream.
This coalition is a contingent of chambers of commerce, civic associations, local governments, engineering and professional trade groups, transit advocates and members of the public who want safe streets for all modes of traffic. The group looks to coordinate Complete Streets planning efforts, communicate on finding opportunities for local projects, act as a clearinghouse for information and lobby with a united voice for safe roadways.
Toward that end, members of the group at the meeting are seeking a meeting with NYS DOT to review the needs of improvements that can be made along the 5 roadways spotlighted. In addition there was interest in the group to see at least some portion of red light camera funding can be dedicated towards road safety improvements in each County – not just dedicated to general fund support.
The 4th Annual Long Island Complete Streets Summit was held at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale, once again bringing together transportation experts, advocates, elected officials, engineers, and community leaders to the table to discuss projects in the works and what can be done to make safer streets for all who use them.
The Summit was kicked off by Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool, who discussed some of the ongoing needs of the region with a panel discussing Complete Streets Tools, Best Practices and Funding. The collective push to have dedicated funding for Complete Streets projects to the tune of $20 million in the state budget was explained, which is now closer to reality. Recently, the NY State Assembly was favorable towards including that in this year’s budget, which would give communities desperately needed funding to allow projects to come to fruition, and leverage other grant funding. Vanterpool explained that since the passing of Complete Streets by the state in 2011, no dedicated funding towards projects has been made available. Vanterpool also mentioned the upcoming Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report will be released next week. The last report names Route 25 in Suffolk the most dangerous road for walking, with 20 deaths in a three-year period.
Alec Slatky, Legislative and Community Relations Representative at AAA Northeast, discussed his advocacy efforts, and is as committed as ever to working towards having safe streets for motorists as well as those who use the roads as pedestrians and bicyclists. Slatky was able to provide more of a perspective from the drivers’ point of view, which is valuable and needs to be taken in account with any Complete Streets projects since 86% of commuters use personal vehicles or carpools as their primary means of transportation.
New York Bicycle Coalition’s Daniel Flanzig spoke about their numerous advocacy efforts. Recently, Flanzig presented at Suffolk County Police Department’s Bike and Pedestrian Law Enforcement Training, where he had the opportunity to not only witness the education of law enforcement on shared responsibility between pedestrians and drivers, but to share knowledge. In Suffolk, more than 40 percent of the 142 traffic fatalities last year involved pedestrians and bicyclists; the training aimed to reduce that number. Flanzig also spoke of the hopes to adopt a common-sense 3 foot safe passing law, which would require every person who is driving a motor vehicle to pass those biking with a minimum of three feet of space. Currently, New York State does have a safe passing law with no distance requirements, making it hard to enforce and open to interpretation. In the Bike and Pedestrian Law Enforcement Training with Suffolk County, Flanzig noticed that officers were not aware of the current safe passing law that is on the books.
Closing out the session concerning Complete Streets Tools, Best Practices, and Funding was James Bazata of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., who introduced a revolutionary program to help design Complete Streets projects. The virtual reality simulation modeling tool models streets before a project, and allows people to visualize what a project may look like after development in real-time, like a video game. These models also serve as a baseline to evaluate the effectiveness of recommended solutions, and can assist with public outreach in a cost-effective, unique way, giving perspective from the drivers’ point of view as well as pedestrians.
The Keynote address was delivered by Ryan Russo, Deputy Commissioner of Transportation, Planning and Management for NY City’s Department of Transportation. Russo highlighted many of the successes of the 2 year program, with hopes that some of the best practices could be implemented as Long Island moves ahead with Complete Streets programs, saying that “we can design fatalities out of the system”.
Through engineer initiatives including lane narrowing, adding bicycle paths, shorting pedestrian crossing distances, and adding speed bumps, areas such as Queens Boulevard- known by many as the “Boulevard of Death” have begun the transformation into a safe and livable corridor for walking, cycling, and driving.
Enforcement has also been stepped up, with speed camera installation in key areas, enhanced enforcement of the “Right of Way” law, and a heavy focus on motorcycle safety, making 2015 the safest year for motorcycles in over a decade. Expansion of speed camera utilization will be advocated for this year, with the aim of reducing collisions and injuries even further. Although speed cameras can be unpopular to those who receive summonses, NYC does not charge administration fees on tickets, and points are not levied on licenses as they would be through more costly traditional enforcement measures.
The City has also increased the education and public engagement of the causes of fatal crashes. By engaging the public through Street Teams, increasing education of TLC drivers, and executing successful media campaigns, the City continued to augment its efforts to make streets safer. In 2016, there will be increased focus on improving safety for older adults through targeted initiatives to combat.
The impacts of Vision Zero’s efforts have resulted in the fewest traffic deaths in any year since 2015, and the second year of decreases in fatalities since Vision Zero was launched, with about 20% fewer traffic-related fatalities in 2015 when compared to the past 15 year’s average. Those killed or severely injured is also significantly down, with over 500 fewer incidents in 2014 compared to pre-Vision Zero, cutting the amount of incidents nearly in half when compared to the year 2000. Additionally, the year 2015 was the safest year for New Yorkers while walking in the City’s history, with the City looking towards continuing the focus on reducing failure to yield crashes and deterring speeding to reduce the amount of incidents further.
Case Examples and progress reports on Long Island were discussed, with elected officials speaking of progress and hopes for the future. Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran spoke about the Baldwin, Grand Avenue’s progress on a 1.4 mile stretch between Stanton Avenue and Merrick Road. Part of the plan includes signalized left-turn lanes at Seaman Avenue and St. Luke’s place to reduce bottlenecks, bump-outs at some crossings, enhanced crosswalks, and signal timing adjustments to make it safer to drive, walk, and shop. A road diet between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway is also planned, which is the most controversial aspect of the improvement, but has helped other areas with higher traffic volumes. The federal grants that were received to commission the study will catalyze, support, and compliment private investment, give safer access for all users of the roadway, and help stabilize the communities through smart growth.
The Village of Freeport’s Deputy Mayor Jorge Martinez spoke about revitalization efforts of North Main Street, aiming to streetscape the corridor north of the busy LIRR train station, bringing economic opportunity to the area. Freeport hosts multiple downtown areas, with North Main Street being targeted for revitalization by working with the township and county in a collaborative effort.
The Village of Great Neck Plaza’s Mayor Jean Celender gave an overview of their past history of traffic calming projects, as well as the Shorewood Drive/Welwyn Road Pedestrian and Bicyclist Enhancements. The million dollar project, mostly funded through NYS Department of Transportation via federal funding, aims to alleviate congestion by the post office, a National Historic Register designated building. The high-density village, with a population of 7,000 in just 1/3 of a square mile, hopes to increase access for all modes of transportation in the area for users of all ages with sharrow bike lane markings, safer elevated crosswalks, an additional roundabout, and a safer zone for the NICE bus to drop off and pick up riders.
Councilman Steve Flotteron of Islip Township discussed several projects in the area, highlighting the need to provide walkable and bicycle access from the Sayville LIRR station to the ferry service approximately 3000 feet away, which services several Fire Island destinations with tens of thousands of visitors annually, while giving access to the many parks south of Main Street. Always thinking outside of the box, Councilman Flotteron also spoke of the desire for additional bicycle access for along the parkways system, which could link destinations west to Long Beach and through Long Island’s mainland.
Overviews of regional projects, such as Heartland Town Square and the Ronkonkoma Hub were presented by Patrick Lenihan of VHB, saying that form-based codes and zoning will help the projects move ahead in ways that will help promote Complete Streets policies. Representatives from Long Beach and North Hempstead also gave updates on grants received, speed reductions, and projects that will involve inter-municipal cooperation to move forward.
Vision’s Director Eric Alexander pointed to the progress for Complete Streets highlighting the seven Towns that have passed legislation, two Counties and smaller villages and cities. “The good news is that over 40 traffic calming and pedestrian and bike projects are completed or underway along with robust community support. The bad news is that it is unclear the NYS DOT’s implementation of the Complete Streets law and Nassau and Suffolk County have limited resources to advance these types of projects. Many local Town’s and Villages desire these road design changes but the tax cap limits reinvestment in roadway infrastructure.”
Special thanks to Summit sponsors AARP, GPI, VHB, Wendel, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Sustainability Institute at Molloy for hosting.
Progress on Complete Streets across Long Island
Welcome to the inaugural newsletter of the Long Island Complete Streets Coalition, a group of community organizations, individuals and businesses working with local and regional governments to improve roadway safety for all users. The Coalition kicked off at the Second Annual Complete Streets Summit earlier this year to inform, coordinate and advocate with the growing number of Long Islanders seeking safe downtown, residential streets and commercial corridors.
This first issue covers Federal, State, County and local activity to improve our roads as well as upcoming events. The initial stages of the Coalition will be supported by Vision Long Island, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and AARP with many more supporters to follow.
Please send us photos, maps and descriptions of unsafe conditions for walking and biking in your community that will help illustrate the numerous changes needed to our dangerous roadways. If your organization or municipality is working on a project, needs support or wants to promote an event, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 631-261-0242.
Legislation Makes Complete Streets A Federal Priority
Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Senator Kristen Gillibrand have helped pass through the Pedestrian Safety Act and the Safe Streets Act, which will allocate funding towards projects that protect pedestrian safety and will require every state or metropolitan planning department to have a law or policy in place that mandates federally funded transportation projects to follow Complete Streets principles. The support of these pieces of legislation by Gillibrand and Israel indicates a prioritization of improving streets on Long Island coming from the federal level and creates hope for tangible changes to be made. Projects may include improvements to sidewalks, decreasing lane width or creating traffic islands in the middle of roads.
In a press conference held in East Meadow in May, Senator Gillibrand, Nassau Executive Ed Mangano, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, and Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island all discussed the necessity of this legislation and the role it will play in lowering the number of pedestrian deaths that occur on Long Island. Supervisor Murray captured the importance of this event when she stated, “Long Island is a bustling suburb with over 2.6 million cars on our roadways. Ensuring the safety of pedestrians who share the streets with motor vehicles is critically important. Senator Kristen Gillibrand has crafted legislation that will safeguard all pedestrians and help local governments protect our children, senior citizens and all neighbors who walk along area streets.” This legislation will assist in putting pressure on county and town governments to implement Complete Streets projects that keep roads safer. Research is making it exceedingly clear that the only way to avoid pedestrian accidents is to design safer streets.
Implementing Complete Streets At The State Level
New York State is also making important efforts to implement a Complete Streets law that was recently passed. At a press conference held in March in Patchogue, Assemblyman Edward Hennessey ensured that New York State would continue to allocate funds for Complete Streets Projects. He was joined by local bike and running clubs, federal, state and county officials, and advocates for Smart Growth Development, showing the multi- level support that exists for these projects.
State offices are also putting in effort to provide some of the technical understanding required to make lasting road improvements. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council provided a two day training session in the Suffolk County offices to train attendees on subjects including street crossing principles, street crossing counter measures, sidewalk design, and roundabouts among others. Attendees included members of the state DOT, representatives from municipal planning, traffic safety, and engineering departments. Those that attended received training in the engineering principles and theory behind Complete Streets improvements and are better equipped to oversee Complete Streets projects.
Another training session will be held Sept. 16 in a partnership between NYMTC, the Department of Transportation and the Town of Babylon. Attendees will learn about design changes that can be made to calm traffic and make roads safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and all users. Attendees will learn about changes that can be made to calm traffic and make crossing and walking safer for pedestrians.
Walkability Tour Confirms Sunrise Hwy Needs Improvements
Long Island traffic advocates called for changes to make Sunrise Highway safer and more efficient last year, only to be stonewalled by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT).
In June, street design expert Dan Burden joined Vision Long Island, AARP and Tri-State Transportation Campaign for road audits in Valley Stream, Baldwin and Freeport. Burden is the executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.
“It’s clear that much more is needed to address the ongoing safety issues facing communities along the Sunrise Highway corridor,” Vision Director Eric Alexander said. “We hope drawing attention to the needs of these downtowns helps improve safety along the corridor and benefits local businesses.”
With two dozen community members, elected officials and advocates following, Burden meandered through all three downtowns highlighting flaws in road design. Traffic lanes larger than 10 feet – 11- and 12-foot lanes were found in Valley Stream and Baldwin – encourage drivers to speed, while traffic lights strung diagonally across an intersection – found in Freeport – are too high for drivers to see pedestrians in the road. Unpainted crosswalks and debris along sidewalks also limited walkability, while pedestrian buttons are largely ignored.
He presented participants with a toolbox of solutions, including roundabouts, 9-foot travel lanes, wider sidewalks, post-mounted traffic signals, plants along the road’s edge and bicycle lanes.
Sunrise runs through each community’s downtown and is routinely ranked as one of the most dangerous roadways in the region for walking. According to a Tri-State Transportation Campaign analysis of pedestrian fatality data, from 2010-2012 eight pedestrians were killed along Sunrise Highway in Nassau County. Over the same time period, there were 94 crashes between motorists and pedestrians and 32 crashes involving motorists and cyclists along Sunrise Highway alone.
“Walking around today I realized this is a suburban community best enjoyed from your car,” Tri-State Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool said in Valley Stream. “A lot of the resources are not being used because people don’t feel safe.”
In Baldwin, Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran admitted crossing the highway in her hometown by foot was frightening. However, she saw the solutions Burden pointed out as an economic opportunity.
“Walkable communities attract and keep jobs. They also attract young people. For us to survive and thrive, that’s what we need,” Curran said.
Last year, Vision, AARP and Tri-State called for improvements to Sunrise Highway between the Queens border and Massapequa. Eventually, the DOT admitted they were working on a plan, but declined to release details. A $2.7-million RFP has been issued for the project, with submissions due by the fall. Construction is expected to begin in the winter and end by spring 2016.
DOT officials responded to press calls from yesterday’s audits with a comment about working with the community. The organizers of the event have not found any specific business or public officials that are working with DOT on the pedestrian safety plan.
Burden will exhibit a follow-up presentation with recommendtions for Sunrise Highway improvements on Oct. 2.
County Executives Invest In Complete Streets Improvements
More money will be allocated to create safer roads in Suffolk County going forward.
The county Legislature voted in favor of amending the 2015-2017 Capital Program in June. That includes $250,000 annually for Complete Streets beginning next year.
“Today the Legislature supported my efforts to establish an annual fund for Complete Streets components to Suffolk County roadway projects. It is not only important to say that Suffolk County supports access for all users, but it’s important that we support those ideals with funds to create bike lanes, curbing, sidewalks and signage. Safety for all Suffolk County residents, whether they drive a car, ride a bike or walk to their destination, is our highest priority and I thank my colleagues for their support,” Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said.
County Executive Steve Bellone recommended a $410 million capital budget for 2015 – three times the 2014 spending – and a $789.1 million three-year capital program this spring. A bipartisan legislative working group added $22.3 million in amendments to the capital plan and $58 million to the three-year program.
Suffolk County passed and signed Complete Streets legislation in 2012. However, the current federal transportation bill – MAP-21 – cut dedicated walking and bicycling infrastructure investments by 30 percent. The New York State Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2014-2017 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program approved last year plans to spend only 0.98 percent of its transportation funds. That marks a 40 percent, or more than $100 million, cut for bicycling and pedestrian projects compared to the 2011-2014 plan. The DOT has planned to cut spending on walking and biking projects by 24 percent over the next four years, resulting in just 0.57 percent of regionally allocated transportation dollars being spent on these projects.
The federal and state transportation cuts put more pressure on local governments to fill in the gaps. Tri-State Transportation Campaign, AARP and Vision Long Island testified before the Suffolk County Legislature two weeks ago to amend the capital budget. Vision Assistant Director Tawaun Weber recommended no less than $1 million for four years; lawmakers responded with the lower amount.
An investment in Complete Streets demonstrates Suffolk County is serious about developing a comprehensive plan for all users of our roadways. This is a very worthy investment of public tax dollars,” Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said.
Investing in infrastructure like raised crosswalks, pedestrian safety islands, protected bike lanes and landscaped medians can force drivers to slow down and improve general safety on Suffolk County roads.
“The establishment of dedicated funding for safe walking and cycling infrastructure is an important step for Suffolk County as funding from New York State and the Federal government dwindles,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “County Legislator Rob Calarco and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory have shown incredible leadership by advancing this funding.”
“We are happy to see Suffolk County provide dedicated funds for desperately-needed Complete Streets projects. This is the type of initiative that is needed to move Suffolk DPW towards creating safer roadways for our region,” Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said.
In the 17-1 vote, Legislator Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip) was the lone voice of dissent. Barraga, who made headlines worldwide with comments about bicycling in Suffolk County this winter, said his vote stemmed purely from fiscal concerns.
“It’s just too much spending, too much borrowing and the people I represent can’t afford anymore,” he said. “I have nothing against the individual projects.”
Pedestrians In Danger On Montauk Highway In Lindenhurst
First, it was a teenager’s death on Hempstead Turnpike. Now, it’s a near fatality involving a young boy on Lindenhurst.
Village of Lindenhurst officials, residents and transportation advocates renewed a request to the Department of Transportation (DOT) earlier this summer for improvements to a strip of Montauk Highway.
Much like the 13-year-old killed trying to cross Hempstead Turnpike on June 15, a 10-year-old boy was struck by a car on June 14. John Johnson, of Lindenhurst, was with his family going across Montauk Highway when they were caught in the middle of the road without the refuge of a median. The nearest vehicle began to slow, but Johnson sprinted into the next lane and a car launched the boy 15 feet in the air.
The child is expected to survive, but locals say the stretch of road between South Strong Avenue and Park Avenue is just too dangerous to continue ignoring. Brittney Walsh, 18, was killed two years ago when her car was rear-ended by an alleged drunk driver.
Village officials have pestered the state for traffic-calming measures for a decade, including Mayor Thomas Brennan writing to the DOT in March for a traffic study and requesting one lane be eliminated in each direction. The state responded with a statement that they began a study using “traffic data analysis and sound engineering principles.” They also said traffic engineers are conducting on-site observations, delay studies, crash analysis and a speed study.
However, Village officials said they are unaware of any studies and have not met with any DOT staff.
“We’ve had nobody come down and sit with us and go over our concerns,” said Village Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Cullinane. “If they’re just doing counts and statistics, that’s not enough.”
Not only does the crosswalk lack a median, but there are no traffic lights. A sign warning motorists about pedestrians is just 150 feet away from the intersection where Johnson was hit, following a curve in the highway.
“We almost lost a young boy trying to cross this road, which is very difficult. How many people have to die before something is done?” Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffery (R-Lindenhurst) said.
Both officials have pleaded for the DOT to remove a lane, while advocates recommend making some modifications to improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow.
“Narrower lanes, well-designed medians, a number of things which makes the road seem narrower, which makes drivers more diligent and cautious,” Vision Long Island Sustainability Director Elissa Kyle said.
More Calls For Safer Roads At Complete Streets Summit
“Here we have to rustle up energy to these common sense activities.”
Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island and emcee for the 2014 Complete Streets Summit, let a little passion slip through at the beginning of the April conference. He complained how people are still getting hurt and killed on Long Island roads, while other parts of the world have made the necessary changes to protect them.
The second annual Complete Streets Summit, held at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Farmingdale, was a gathering of government leaders, planners, engineers, nonprofits and other community stakeholders who support policy changes to design roadways for all uses – not just automobiles.
For Sandy Cutrone, the Summit was a chance to remind participants of the campaign’s significance. The West Islip resident was an avid bicyclist since her days growing up in North Babylon; she was riding along Montauk Highway in Babylon Village last September when a van turned into her. Cutrone developed neck pain, vision problems and post-concussion symptoms that continue to keep her from working. Her story crossed the world in February after Suffolk County Legislator Tom Barraga criticized her for bicycling in Suffolk County.
Complete Streets, she added, could help prevent similar accidents in the future. That includes designated bike lanes and signage, better pedestrian crossings and traffic lights that display a red left turn arrow when the light turns green for oncoming traffic.
Downtowns would also benefit from more pedestrian and bicyclist traffic, Cutrone said.
“We won’t simply drive through. We will stop [and shop],” she said.
Complete Streets policy could also be a lifesaver, a change too late for Lavena Sipes. The Smithtown resident watched a driver high on heroin smash into her 11-year-old daughter, Courtney, back in 2009. Mother and daughter were crossing Main Street for a music lesson Courtney was looking forward to when an SUV sent her flying under another car and killing the girl.
The family moved from Texas to Smithtown in 2008. With shops along Main Street and people walking in the community, Sipes believed they were alright leaving their car behind.
Since her daughter’s death, the family founded the Courtney Sipes Memorial Foundation. The nonprofit advocates for pedestrian safety and supports youth interest in music and arts.
“It seemed safe. We had our blinders on,” Sipes said. “It’s easy to separate yourself from these tragedies and think it won’t happen to your family.”
Cutrone and Sipes joined Alexander in unveiling the Long Island Compete Streets Coalition at Thursday’s event. The coalition is a contingent of chambers of commerce, civic associations, local governments, engineering and professional trade groups, transit advocates and members of the public who want safe streets for all modes of traffic.
The group will look to coordinate Complete Streets planning efforts, communicate on finding opportunities for local projects, act as a clearinghouse for information and lobby with a united voice for safe roadways.
The keynote speaker at Thursday’s Complete Streets Summit was Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Referring to Barraga’s comments, the county leader admitted Suffolk was designed auto-centric as Robert Moses developed America’s earliest suburbs. But if Long Island wants to stimulate the economy, create a sense of place and reverse the Brain Drain, he said it’s time to embrace the common sense-solutions of Complete Streets.
“If we’re going to have a vibrant economy and a safe environment for all of us, then Complete Streets is part of the solution,” Bellone said.
Such policies would also play a part in his “Connect Long Island” initiative. The county executive wants to link the existing east-west railways with new north-south options like Bus Rapid Transit to connect universities, jobs and affordable housing. Complete Streets, he said, would help connect destinations without needing a car.
Bellone was flanked by Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) and Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin). He said the effort has to be less about changing culture and more about reminding residents why they moved to the suburbs in the first place, while she said transit-oriented development creates jobs, reduces traffic, keeps young professionals on Long Island, improves sales tax revenues and solves many of the region’s problems.
Under guidance of Tri-State Transportation Campaign Associate Director Ryan Lynch, the Implementation: Challenges and Policies panel began discussing issues facing Complete Streets solutions. Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said their village of 6,700 already embraces these policies. Passing Complete Streets legislation in 2012, the village has slowed speed limits, increased access to all modes of transit and added bus shelters and benches.
Celender was optimistic she could return next year with a success story for Welwyn Road and Shoreward Drive. The area currently has one lane of traffic in each direction with heavy congestion, deteriorating pavement, cracked concrete sidewalks and no pedestrian facilities. The village received a $5.1 million grant for enhancements, including brick walkways and raised crosswalks.
In Nassau County, Traffic Safety Coordinator Christopher Mistron focused on the three E’s of planning – education, engineering and enforcement. Instead of having EMS as a fourth E, Mistron said he wanted it to be encouragement. In education, the county official said having conversations about Complete Streets is effective. What starts as a dinner table conversation turns into pedestrian awareness about safety. In enforcement, Mistron said red light cameras have reduced crashes by as much as 40 percent. He also said police officers crossed crosswalks and chased after drivers who didn’t yield. In engineering, he said the county makes changes to their own roads but is limited by local governments.
A late minute addition to the panel, Suffolk Bus Riders Association President Robert DeVito emphasized both education for drivers and bicyclists. They go into schools teaching how to properly ride, but also stress that most bicyclists also own cars. DeVito said spending money on bridging the disconnect between bicyclists and other drivers would go further than infrastructure projects.
In the Town of Brookhaven, Councilwoman Connie Kepert said Complete Streets policies have been a success since the board passed it in 2010. Kepert said she’s finding some opposition to proposed transit-oriented development in North Bellport from neighbors to the south. They were able to install sidewalks and bike lanes on some roads, but the councilwoman said they’re still facing some opposition about Complete Streets.
“It’s not creating Queens in Brookhaven. It’s making the roads safe,” she said.
Led by VHB Director of Transportation Matthew Carmody, the second panel focused on the design and regulation to guide Complete Streets projects.
Babylon’s Director of Downtown Revitalization Jonathan Keyes said they don’t get many opportunities to rebuild communities in Babylon with 99 percent of the town built up. Wyandanch Rising may be “an engineer’s headache” with narrow roads and underground utilities, but wider roads would increase traffic speeds as well as making the work easier, violating the tenets of Complete Streets.
Rich Zapolski is still relatively new to the Town of Islip as their commissioner of Planning and Development, but he’s actively learning about Complete Streets and works with a small, but talented staff. The Town approved a Complete Streets policy in 2010. Complete Streets is part of the planned Heartland Town Square, currently undergoing an environmental impact study, Zapolski said. He added they’re trying to incorporate the concepts in projects throughout the town’s other hamlets.
Southampton Transportation Director Tom Neely admitted his region may be less dense, although it’s geographically large. With lots of roads to worry about, Neely introduced a discussion of the expenses behind accidents. With the average accident in America costing $16,000, the director said his town sees about 2,000 accidents every year.
He urged conference participants and guests to vote for elected officials who want change. Many towns have an elected highway superintendent who operates independently of the town board. Southampton officials took an inventory of sidewalks to go along with their map of bike roads, which their highway superintendent used while plowing snow.
The Town of North Hempstead passed Complete Streets legislation in 2011. Town Planner Wes Sternberg said they used the policies when they put Prospect Avenue on “a diet.” What once was a four-lane road with limited but high speed traffic was turned into a slower, two-lane road. They’re also investigating solutions for Marion Street on the border of Greenvale and Oyster Bay. The neighborhood is fine by itself, but Glen Cove Road and Northern Boulevard traffic speed through as a shortcut. A car drives through ever 53 seconds on weekdays and every 38 seconds on Saturday.
“That’s a lot of traffic that shouldn’t be there,” Sternberg said.
To slow traffic down, he said, the town is considering a few options. That could include a lane choker to restrict to one lane of alternating traffic or using islands to constrict the roads. Other municipalities, he added, could try these solutions out temporarily using traffic cones.
Stepping away from Long Island, Wendel Companies Sr. Landscape Architect Dean Gowen examined Complete Streets through a project in upstate Buffalo. When they considered the $11.3 million-plan, Gowen said they needed to identify specific values, like improving traffic flow, opening up Brownfields properties and serving as a catalyst for revitalization.
Complete Streets, he added, incorporates three basic concepts. Projects must involve multiple forms of transportation, environmentally-sound decisions and include both education and smart technology.
The final speaker of the second panel was a newcomer to engineering firm Greenman Pedersen, inc. Transportation Safety Director Frank Pearsen reflected on his three decades with the New York State Department of Transportation to emphasize the importance of Complete Streets.
He worked on a project along Newbridge Road as a rookie engineer. Back then, he was proud of the four-lane road he created. Responding to elected officials’ complaints 20 years later, Pearsen realized the smarter decision to make it safer for everyone was actually to remove a lane and add traffic signals. He also responded to Main Street in Smithtown after Courtney Sipes was killed, tasked with finding a cheap solution quickly. After getting community input, the DOT used a west-bound lane to create a turning lane, added traffic signal and installed wider sidewalks.
Pearsen cautioned major projects like the NY Route 347 Safety, Mobility and Environmental Improvements project renovating 15 miles of highway are not often feasible solutions. Instead, he urged government officials to seek more practical low-cost solutions.
“The big projects are splashy, but few and far between,” he added.
For more information on how to join the Long Island Complete Streets Coalition, contact Vision Long Island.
Smart Growth Saturday, Sept. 20
The second Smart Growth Saturday is slated to take place this Saturday, Sept. 20, at 11 a.m. Guided tours will be led through the towns of Great Neck Plaza, Rockville Centre, Babylon and Port Jefferson. These downtowns are all examples of communities that have enhanced walkability with thriving downtown districts with calmed traffic and safe street crossings. For more information and registration, download this flier.
Sunrise Highway Safety Meeting, Oct. 2
On October 2nd there was a follow up meeting from transportation expert Dan Burden’s previous visit at the Freeport Library from 7-8:30 p.m. This meeting was sponsored by AARP, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Vision Long Island and discussed the recommendations Burden advanced in his recent visit.
Smart Growth Summit, Nov. 21
Vision Long Island will be holding their annual Smart Growth Summit on Nov. 21 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Melville Marriot. The summit will have a workshop panel on Complete Streets improvements. Find more information on Vision’s website.
Car Free Day Rally, Sept. 18
Long Island’s 2nd Annual Car Free Day took place on Sept. 22. All were encouraged to take the pledge to go car free by biking, using mass transit and carpooling. The rally kicked off the event at Farmingdale State College on Sept. 18 from 2-4 p.m. with speakers discussing the importance of transportation alternatives and transit oriented development. All were encouraged to attend and learn about the importance of going car free. Visit their website for more information.
Suffolk County Bike Summit, Sept. 22
Monday, Sept. 22 wass also the date of the Suffolk County Bike Summit. The event was held at 11:45 a.m. at the H Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge and featured panels and speakers discussing bike safety and infrastructure.