May 19, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Since this story was first published, the date for the Onondaga County Department of Transportation’s public information meeting was changed to 6 to 8 p.m. May 31 at Camillus Town Hall.
The Onondaga County Department of Transportation has proposed changes to West Genesee Street in Camillus, spanning three miles from Onondaga Road going west to Munro Road. The proposal, penned as a resurfacing project, would narrow two stretches of the corridor from four lanes to three.
Town Councilor Bill Davern said that from the town’s perspective, the project came out of nowhere.
“I really felt that that came out of the blue to us,” he said. “It was not publicized, we were never brought into the picture … to discuss what we thought about it before it was semi-cast in concrete.”
The town board expressed its concerns, prompting county officials to schedule a public informational meeting for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday May 26 at the Camillus Municipal Building courtroom. Davern said he’s heard concerns from many constituents, who he is encouraging to attend.
If enough people show up, the location will move to the gymnasium to accommodate for space. Davern, who is also the town’s public safety chair, said he unfortunately will not be attending the meeting, since it was scheduled for the same night as West Genesee High School’s Kaleidoscope concert held yearly at the Civic Center. Davern’s son, also Bill, is the school district’s director of fine arts.
Davern said he agrees with the changes targeting pedestrian safety. As part of the project, traffic signal timings will be improved, sidewalks installed where deemed necessary, and bike lanes are being considered.
“I like the concept of the sidewalks, we badly need these extended sidewalks for pedestrians and for students constantly walking back and forth between the school and towards Fairmount,” he said, adding praise for the county’s plan to install “true pedestrian crosswalks” at the Whedon Road, Hinsdale Road and Vanida Drive intersections. These will include audible signals for blind residents.
“We do have blind people in my ward and the other [wards] that do walk that street,” he said.
The changes to travel lanes are in response to numbers gathered by the DOT indicating dangerous travel conditions. As one example, the DOT found that within the last three years, 100 accidents were reported from Whedon Road to Hinsdale Road and Knowell Road to Munro Road. A new three-lane configuration – a two-way center left turn lane with one travel lane in each direction – has been proposed for both stretches.
“I am not sure if the reduction to three lanes in the proposed sections of Old Route 5 will be beneficial, but I am not a Traffic Flow Control Engineer,” Davern said.
Supervisor Mary Ann Coogan sent the county a letter outlining the town’s concerns, and recently heard back.
Coogan asked if three lanes would cause more congestion than what exists now. In response, county DOT engineer Chris Rauber said many assume that by going from four to three lanes, there is a significant drop off in corridor capacity because the number of through lanes cut in half.
“In reality,” he wrote, “the capacity of a three-lane facility is very near that of a four-lane undivided roadway that contains many side streets and driveways. On a four-lane roadway, drivers who want to travel through the corridor generally stay in the outside curb lane to avoid getting caught behind mid-block left-turning vehicles.”
During peak hours in the current setup, Rauber added, the inside two lanes are used far less than the outside lanes, mainly by left-turning vehicles, so only one lane in each direction is accommodating most of the through traffic. This makes the four-lane setup similar to a three-lane setup.
Coogan also asked, “What is the benefit of changing to a two-way center left turn lane with one travel lane in each direction?”
Rauber said this configuration has been proven safer, resulting in significantly fewer accidents. It will lower speed variability, creating a more predictable and consistent travel environment.
“The three-lane configuration also provides for safer pedestrian accommodations as it allows pedestrians to focus on one lane of traffic at a time,” Rauber explained in the letter.
In response to the question, “Is there anything ‘green’ about the project?” Rauber said the sidewalk will be made of a porous material to reduce stormwater runoff.
80 percent of the total project cost, estimated at approximately $5.5 million, will be funded federally, with 15 percent covered by New York State and the remaining 5 percent funded by Onondaga County.