MALONE — An ongoing Pedestrian Safety Action Plan project on Route 11 was the topic of discussion at Monday evening’s board meeting, with trustees going over concerns about the project’s impact on traffic, in the village.
According to Mayor Andrea Dumas, village residents and residents from neighboring communities have raised concerns about the future impact of the state’s project on traffic flow, and the traffic backups created by current construction work.
“I’ve been getting calls from fire departments, school districts, community members, and law enforcement,” Dumas said, “It is tough right now, I know traffic has been really backed up the last couple of weeks, because they are doing so much work right now. The engineers keep saying to us once they are out of the road, and they move their flags, and equipment, things should lighten up a lot.”
Dumas said she has heard concerns from the village, town and county, reiterating Route 11 is a state road and the changes being made to its traffic pattern are part of a state plan.
“Route 11 is New York State’s road and they came to us with their plan, and implemented it with very little discussion from the village board,” Dumas said.
According to Trustee Norman Bonner, the state has said the emphasis of the project is pedestrian safety.
“They did come and listen, diligently to our concerns about the pedestrian safety islands, and they explained their reasoning, and they reminded us several times that this was a pedestrian safety project, and the islands were in place to increase that,” Bonner said, “The state traffic engineers are adamant that this will actually increase traffic flow through the village and increase safety.”
The project includes the addition of a pedestrian island by Sawyer Avenue, one by the YMCA on West Main Street, and one near the post office on East Main Street, according to DOT project documents.
According to Malone Village Police Chief Christopher Premo, some stakeholder meetings were held between state and local officials, but more local input would have helped, specifically pointing to the pedestrian islands.
“They never told us what the islands were going to look like or how big they were going to be,” Premo said.
Premo said he was concerned about motorists avoiding Route 11 and speeding on side streets throughout the village as a result of increased traffic.
“This is going to push traffic to all the side streets as well, because everybody is going to try and avoid Main Street,” Premo said, “People are going to start avoiding Main Street, even when the project is done, they are going to avoid Main Street.”
The project includes changes to existing traffic lanes on Route 11, including a reduction to two-lane areas in some sections, in addition to other portions of the project where four-lane sections remain on Route 11, according to Michael Flick, public information officer with the state’s Department of Transportation, who said the project will also feature center-turn lanes, left turn queuing areas at intersections, and pedestrian refuge areas.
Trustee Matthew Boyea said he thinks the traffic situation will improve once work is finished.
“I don’t think it is going to be that bad when they get done, I think it is going to be a big improvement, obviously for pedestrians and if people have to drive a little slower well…,” Boyea said.
Dumas said the first stakeholders meeting of the project took place in January 2019 and the final stakeholders meeting with DOT was held in July, adding there are crosswalks in the village that needed to be improved.
“We have all had concerns with the crossing by the post office, that has been brought up over and over again, and when Stewart’s was across the street from the YMCA, kids running back and forth to the convenience store was always a concern,” Dumas said, “I do remember when Congressman Owens was in town and he crossed by the YMCA and he almost got hit.”
However, Dumas said the size of the pedestrian island by the YMCA and its location is concerning.
“The island there is so large, it is concerning, where is traffic going to go, the one lane right through there, my concern is fire departments coming in or rescue, or the police needing to get from one end of the village to the next,” Dumas said.
Village Department of Public Works Supervisor Stephen Fredette said the pedestrian island by Sawyer Avenue will change up the village’s snowplowing route since the trucks will have to enter the avenue from the westbound direction.
Bonner said concerns about large vehicles turning onto Sawyer Avenue were raised during stakeholder meetings, due to the limited turn radius that would be required.
Dumas said there is a housing facility for senior citizens on Sawyer Avenue, near the pedestrian island.
“My other concern with that area is the housing facility, and the elderly pulling in and out of that area, and the rescue vehicles going there, it is concerning getting those rescue trucks onto Sawyer Ave,” Dumas said.
The $3.3 million project started on May, 17, and Dumas said the project is scheduled to be completed November 30.
According to Flick, the project runs across a three-mile stretch, from the area around Malone-Dufort Airport in the town, to the junction of Andrus Street and Route 11 in the village.
The five year $110 million Pedestrian Safety Action Plan started in 2016, and involves the state DOT, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, and the state’s Department of Health.
Trustee Archie McKee said there was never an opportunity for the village to approve the proposed project.
“I don’t think there ever was an opportunity for the village to approve or disapprove, the plans were developed and we were shown what the plans were, and things were not going to change,” McKee said.
McKee said he believes the pedestrian island by Kinney Drugs will reduce access to the pharmacy on East Main Street.
“Access to and egress from Kinney Drugs is going to be severely impacted,” McKee said.
Dumas said she wants to reach out to the state about who is responsible for removing snow from the pedestrian islands moving forward.
“I don’t believe we should have to shovel those crosswalks, they are not the sidewalks they are the crosswalks that they are putting in, and I believe we should send them a letter, and state they need to hire somebody to come shovel those crosswalks,” Dumas said, “Our staff is already shorthanded.”