Over 100 Local Officials, Community and Business Leaders Join the Long Island Complete Streets Summit

Over 100 local civics, engineers, small businesses and government officials joined the annual Long Island Complete Streets Summit at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in East Farmingdale

Last year the Coalition released the top most dangerous roadways for pedestrians and bicyclists generated from recent crash data focusing on our downtown and commercial corridors – essentially areas where people are encouraged to walk and bike. Those 30 roadways spotlighted have had nearly 600 pedestrian and bicycle crashes in recent years. This year, preliminary data from 2018 was presented and a range of solutions and traffic calming projects was presented from multiple communities.

The program included a panel on Fixing Long Island’s Dangerous Roadways featuring: Hon. Carrie Solages, Nassau County, Hon. Jorge Martinez, Village of Freeport, Sylvia Silberger LI Transportation Alliance, Bernard Macias, AARP NY, Pattie Bourne, City of Long Beach, Dan Flanzig, Village of Sea Cliff, Frank Wefering from Greenman Pedersen, Elissa Kyle, Vision Long Island, Sean Sallie, Nassau County DPW, Jonathan Keyes, Suffolk County, David Winkelman, VHB, and Michael Levine, Town of North Hempstead.

The areas that the panel covered included: Baldwin, Hicksville, Lindenhurst, Sea Cliff, Long Beach, Elmont, Freeport and others.

Vision Long Island Sustainability Director Elissa Kyle started the program speaking about the various roads hotspots for traffic problems across the region. Vision is currently reviewing recent data that shows that, while there has been improvements in some areas other regions have become worse for both cyclist and pedestrian accidents. 

Vision’s Director Eric Alexander was happy to see the over $51 million investment NYS DOT has made in Complete Streets for the LI region. This commitment is far superior to past years.

Nassau Legislator Carrie Solages spoke next, talking about the community he represents, which encompasses Elmont and Valley Stream, among other areas.  He noted that the issues being discussed are about quality of life and public safety, as well as the need for solutions.  He also talked about the current administration’s efforts to move forward with a traffic study aimed at doing just that, and the improvements proposed for Dutch Broadway in particular.

AARP’s Bernard Macias was the next speaker, and he talked about the organization’s advocacy for pedestrian safety on behalf of its membership, who are seniors looking to age in place.  This includes age-friendly policies and access for the elderly.  He also ran through initiatives that the organization has organized on Long Island, including collecting food pantry, birthday events at local nursing homes, and shredding events for sensitive information. 

The next speaker was Glenn Murrell from NYS DOT, who updated the group on the status of project improvements for the LI region.  Vision was pleased to see that the DOT has over $50 million of Complete Streets, traffic calming, bicycle and pedestrian improvements underway.  This is the highest amount charted in over 20 years of tracking.  He also talked about the 35 miles of shared-use paths, 60 miles of dedicated bike lanes, 162 miles of shared roadway maintained by the department, as well as nearly 1,000 miles of sidewalks installed.  He would also talk about the various transportation plans currently affecting Long Island and projects both underway and in the works.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran was the next speaker, spotlighting a range of improvement projects the County is undertaking including downtown Baldwin and Hicksville.  She highlighted and thanked Sean Sallie from Nassau’s planning team, noting the efforts they’ve put into getting results.  She talked about how too many people have died on local roads in spite or warnings and safety measures.  The Supervisor would then give a series of safety updates, noting that traffic safety and calming is necessary.

There was a brief Q&A session next, with a focus on what is being done to advance good practices across the island.  The subjects touched on signage, connectivity, what civics are doing to advance safety, developments of Main Streets and how they tie in with plans, possible opportunities, and other topics.

Sylvia Silberger from the Long Island Transportation Alliance would then make a presentation on the difficulty of getting around the island using public transportation.  Not only is this affected by how public transportation is not very well connected but also how unsafe it can be travel some of the major roadways.  She talked about the need for a way to organize the information to help streamline who owns and maintains the various roads across the region.   Ms. Silberger noted that such a project would be best served on the county level.

Freeport Deputy Mayor Jorge Martinez also spoke, giving an update on Freeport’s work on the North Main Street project.  The project seeks to create a corridor from the LIRR station all the way to the border of Roosevelt.  The area has been a point of frustration for past administrations, but thanks to recent efforts to secure funding, the improvement of North Main Street is finally underway in earnest.

Dan Flanzig, who works as an attorney specializing in cyclists and pedestrians, spoke next on the personal impact of what happens after a crash.  He noted that crashes are an epidemic in the Counties as Nassau and Suffolk have the highest rates in the state.  As the Chair of the Village of Sea Clif Traffic and Safety Committee, he talked about the Village’s efforts to increase pedestrian safety and public transportation.

The next speaker was Frank Wefering from Greenman Pedersen, Inc.  His presentation was on the walkability improvement study for downtown Lindenhurst.  GPI was hired by the Village to improve the downtown area and create a more complete street vibe.  They wanted to create a more connected area that would increase a sense of community as well as road safety.  The process included 6 separate walking audit as well as a drone flyover to identify different routes through the area and needed connectivity.

Patricia Bourne, the Planning Director for the City of Long Beach, was the next speaker.  She would talk about the City’s various efforts to improve their community through safety and being able to move people around.  She covered the history of Long Beach as well as the multi-modal center that helps to move people to the boardwalk and beaches, which is a big draw from the local region.  This has made it more desirable to create complete streets and resiliency.  She would talk about the Edward’s Blvd project and current efforts underway to create a more welcoming environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

Sean Sallie from Nassau County would then give updates on the efforts to meet the challenges of pedestrian safety in an auto-dominated area.  He talked about how issues were being addressed in various communities across the County as well as the need for a grassroots effort to help expedite these goals.  He cited several projects that have been ongoing such as the Baldwin Grand Ave, Park and Beach Street in Atlantic Beach, the Long Island Motor Parkway vision, and traffic calming across the region among other projects.

Jonathan Keyes from Suffolk County was the next speaker, who talked on Suffolk County’s new comprehensive hike-bike master plan.  The effort will include a complete mapping of hiking and biking trails across the county to help identify the various gaps in the system and then work to fill those gaps.  They have received a lot of help and input from local municipalities to help make this come to fruition.  An online public input tool has gone live on ConnectLI.org, which can be viewed here.

VHB’s Dan Winkelman was the next speaker, who talked about national best practices and lessons learned.  Mr. Winkelman started about scoping and the need to gather data to help make a sound decision.  This can range from crash and volume data as well as pedestrian and cyclist fatality.  This is necessary to create an informed decision.  He would also talk about best practices that help to create a successful plan for moving forward in local communities that serve the best interests of all those involved.

The final speaker was Michael Levine from the Town of North Hempstead, who spoke on design elements and funding decisions of various projects.  He would cover when it was best to self-finance projects or to seek out funding for local projects.  He noted that, though it would seem like it’s always best to seek outside funding, the various restrictions or mandated guidelines surrounding that funding could actually lead to higher costs than simply self-financing.  This creates an interesting dynamic where municipalities need to take a hard look at funding sources in order to make an informed decision on how to move forward with financing.

You can read more coverage of the event at Verizon FiOS here, News 12 here, and Newsday here,