Albany Avenue Update – February 2024

Dear Residents,

The Village Board hosted a public meeting on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, and voted to send a preliminary design to NYS Department of Transportation for initial approval. The design incorporated a 13-foot shared vehicle and bicycle lane consistent with NYS DOT standards. The full design, pictures, and maps are available at the village hall if you would like to review them. Below are my remarks from the meeting with a corresponding presentation.



Mayor Remarks from January 23, 2024

Albany Avenue presentation

First, I want to thank everyone for your engagement throughout the process. We all want what is best for the community. Sometimes there’s some disagreement on what exactly that means or how to get there.

I want to specifically address a few issues and dig deeper into the details a bit.

Lane widths and speeding

The first issue is speeding with respect to lane widths.

[ppt slide]

To be clear and to ensure we are all on the same page, in both options presented here tonight, we are staying within the right of way and the current footprint of Albany Avenue. This means that we are not widening the space from the edge of the sidewalk on one side of the street to the edge of the sidewalk on the other.

This is the space that we are working with, and we are not widening or taking property from any private citizen.

[ppt slide x 2] The discussion around lane width is where to put the white line on the road. That is the only difference between the two options. Do we want a 10-foot shared travel lane or a 13-foot shared travel lane?

There is concern that widening the travel lane will increase speeding on Albany Avenue and make it more dangerous.

There is also concern that keeping the 10-foot lane is less safe for bicyclists navigating the street because vehicles must physically stop or move into the other lane to not hit a bicyclist that is sharing that lane.

NYS DOT standards state that a minimum 13-foot lane is required for a shared vehicle and bicycle lane. 15-feet is preferable. In a conversation with DOT engineers, they confirmed this standard and noted that there are many factors that must be considered when constructing a road and determining speed and bicycle safety, and that the issue of lane width is just one of those factors. They stated that the data is inconclusive that lane width alone has a direct impact on speeding. Our engineers at Hudson Valley have reiterated the same.

We have had multiple residents state otherwise, that increasing the lane width will increase speeding. This is a very valid and reasonable concern. As a father with two young children who love to ride bikes, I share this concern with our residents. Residents have shared with me a few studies that suggest increasing lane width directly increases speeding.

I read these studies in detail, and I want to discuss them with you.

The first is the National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Street Design Guide on Lane Width.

[ppt slide]

This guide is for city streets, not rural two-lane roads, but it’s a data point and a guide worth looking at.

The opening paragraph of the guide states, “The width allocated to lanes for motorists, buses, trucks, bikes, and parked cars is a sensitive and crucial aspect of street design. Lane widths should be considered within the assemblage of a given street delineating space to serve all needs, including travel lanes, safety islands, bike lanes, and sidewalks. Each lane width discussion should be informed by an understanding of the goals for traffic calming as well as making adequate space for larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses.”

The guide also states, “Narrower streets help promote slower driving speeds which, in turn, reduce the severity of crashes.” It then states, “wide lanes and offsets to medians are not required but may be beneficial and necessary from a safety point of view.”

Please note the language used here, “help promote slower driving speeds.” It does not say, “the evidence shows, or the data shows that narrower lanes reduce speeds.

[ppt slide x2] This is the change that this guide is advocating for.

  • 4 lanes of 12’
  • Re-allocate for buses, parking, and a bicycle lane (which we rejected)

There’s another NACTO study, the same org that produced the guide that we just referenced, that I found called The Relationship Between Lane Width and Speed Review of Relevant Literature. This is a review of all the studies that look at the relationship between lane width and speeding. I can share the link.

The study states:

– “There is no consensus in the literature on the relationship between lane width and speed. Some studies have shown speed reductions of as much as 3 mph for every foot of lane narrowing; other studies show a more slight speed reduction of about 1 mph per foot of lane narrowing or no significant effect at all. The studies generally agree that there is wide variability between sites, suggesting that lane width alone is not responsible for the entire speed reduction.”

– “Lane widths of at least 15 ft are desirable to accommodate shared operation of bicycles and motor vehicles. . . . (this is the standard that NYS DOT uses).

NACTO’s position is that there is no consensus in the literature between lane width and speed. And that 15 ft lanes are desirable to accommodate shared lanes with bicyclists, which is the standard that NYS DOT has adopted.

Another study called “Narrower Traffic Lanes in Cities Could Help Lower Risk of Traffic-Related Collisions, published by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. I have the link here.

At the very end of this study, it states:

– The researchers also found no significant changes in car crashes with wider traffic lanes in a speed limit zone of 20–25 miles per hour.

Albany Avenue will have a 25-mph speed limit very soon, once we pass the resolution that is already drafted.

Another study. This one made it’s rounds on emails to residents and village representatives called Effects of Widening Longitudinal Road Markings

Researchers from Texas A&M studied uncongested freeways in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Based on more than 650,000 observations, they found that drivers travel 2.2 mph faster, on average, in 12-foot lanes than in comparable 11-foot lanes.

The argument that has been presented to this board is that for every foot we increase the lane width of Albany Avenue, it will increase speeders by the same 2.2 mph that was observed on the freeways in Texas.

Let’s take a deeper look at that.

I was just in Texas this past weekend and was stationed there for a year. I am familiar with the highways around Dallas. This study looks at 4-6 lane highways with 70 mph speed limits. Equating Albany Avenue to I-75 in Dallas is a stretch in my opinion. But it’s a data point.

For the sake of argument, let’s just take the same increase in speeding percentage and apply it to Albany Avenue. 2.2 mph at 70 mph is a 3% increase. A 3% increase on a 25-mph speed limit on Albany is 0.75 mph. Multiply that by 3 (which indicates a 10-13 foot lane increase) and we’re looking at most, a 2-3 mph increase on average – from 25 mph to 28 mph.

This % increase does not take into account that this is a two-way street, we have a traffic light when going into the village a 10th of a mile away, there’s parking on each side of the road, people turning into and out of their driveways, bicyclists and pedestrians crossing, as well as speed feedback signs and our crosswalk hump.

All these things reduce vehicle speeds, and none are present on freeways in Dallas. Considering all these things, I believe this study shows that speeding may increase marginally on Albany Avenue with wider lanes. Maybe 1-2 mph total.

[ppt slide] I also had a conversation with the City of Auburn’s Engineer. Auburn, NY is west of Syracuse and is a historic town, settled in 1820. Their South Street is in their historic district and has Harriet Tubman’s home and former Secretary of State William Seward’s house off it. In 2019, they removed parking on one side of the street, increase lane widths to 14 feet, and installed a shared lane on both sides to accommodate bicyclists. This is very similar to what we are proposing. This section of the street is a 30-mph lane.

After 4 years in operation, the engineer stated that they have had no noticeable increase in speeding or increase in accidents. There have been no accidents involving bicyclists.

We also have a local example. 10 minutes away in Chatham on Hudson Avenue, they have 14-foot wide lanes with 7 feet of parking on each side of the street.

In summary regarding lane widths and speeding:

New York State DOT road design standards require a minimum 13-feet width for a shared lane. 15-feet is preferable. If we want to submit for a 10-foot shared lane, we will need to submit for a non-standard feature justification for a bicycle accommodation and lack of shoulder.

The DOT engineers that we spoke with confirmed this standard and described that the studies are inconclusive that lane widths alone directly impact speeding.

Our experts at Hudson Valley also state that there are many factors that impact speeding on a street and that lane width is not the sole factor.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials conducted a review of all the literature and studies on the relationship between lane widths and speeding and stated that the evidence is inconclusive, that there are many factors that impact speeding.

A Johns Hopkins study states that streets that have a 20-25 mph limit did not experience speed increases as it related to lane width increases.

We have a similar example in Auburn, NY, that has not had any noticeable increase in speeding or accidents with an increase of lane widths from 10 to 14 feet since it was installed four years ago.

And we have our neighbors in Chatham with 14-foot lanes and no issues.

It is my assessment, that given this breadth of evidence and data, that we will not see a significant increase in speeding on Albany Avenue with an increase of lane width. Especially, when you consider our wholistic approach of speed reduction measures that includes speed limit reduction to 25 mph, speed feedback signs, a crosswalk and hump entering the village, and enhanced enforcement with the Sheriff’s Dept., which has been very successful over the past year.

This is what I am concerned about:

(1) Our village is growing. We’ve had 12+ new businesses open over the past several years and there will be more opening in the coming months. There is more vehicle traffic today than in years past and there will continue to be more vehicle traffic and volume in the years to come.

(2) The AHET also has had exponential growth in usage over the last several years. We’re going to continue to have more and more pedestrians and bicyclists use the trail and enter the village via Albany Avenue than in years past.

This is the reality and the environment that we find ourselves in.

I think we need to look at how we are building our infrastructure to support the volume and usage of tomorrow rather than yesterday.

(3) Specifically, I’m also concerned about creating a situation where a vehicle must stop or veer into an oncoming traffic lane to avoid or pass a bicyclist.

[ppt slide]

  • 10-foot lane with inconsistent parking lane of 7-10 feet (today and proposed)
  • People park as far away from the travel lane as possible.
  • Bicyclists will also bike as far to the right as possible.
  • 13-foot lanes provide consistency.
  • Today, people park on the green space because there are no curbs in many areas.
  • More slides on stopping or going into oncoming lane to pass.

Historic Preservation

The other issue I want to address is the historic preservation of Albany Avenue.

As described earlier, the actual paved roadway and sidewalks will predominantly remain in the exact same locations, except for some gentle adjustments to facilitate the installation of curbs, drainage, and parking.

In many areas, we are increasing or restoring green space, which will be in my opinion, a restoration of historic Albany Avenue considering the negligence and lack of maintenance of the road, curbs, green space, and sidewalks that are prevalent up and down the road, and which have been further disrupted by poor drainage and cars that park on the green space.

I had three conversations with NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation officials. Two conversations with a Program Analyst and one with the person who will be reviewing our plan to ensure it meets historic preservation requirements.

The purpose of the conversations was to gain clarity and guidance on what we can, cannot, or should not do to ensure the historic preservation of Albany Avenue.

[ppt slide]

The program analyst stated that if we stay within the public right of way, that we can re-allocate the space any way we want. After describing our plans for Albany Avenue, she stated that she did not see any red flags from a historic preservation perspective because we are staying within the right of way.

During the conversation with the person who will review our design, he confirmed what the program analyst stated. He also stated that road markings have no historical relevance, and where we put the white line, which would determine the travel lane widths, also has no historical significance.

I asked both of them if there has ever been a time when DOT road design standards were not applied to a rural road due to HPC considerations, neither of them could think of an example.

In my conversation with the Auburn, NY, engineer, I asked him what their HPC’s role was in the road redesign. He stated that they were primarily concerned about the historic stone used for the sidewalks. They had no concern or authority to determine lane widths, bicycle accommodations, ADA compliant sidewalks, or whether to adhere to DOT standards.

Just like our village did in 1908 with the installation of concrete sidewalks on Albany Avenue, in 1920 when the water main was installed, and in the 1930s when Albany Avenue was first paved, our work this year with installing a new water main and proper drainage, and improving the sidewalks, green space, and pavement, will be an upgrade to the quality of life of residents.

In closing:

The research and the data show that increasing the lane width to 13-feet in our rural village with additional speed reduction measures, will not increase average speeds beyond maybe 1-2 mph.

With the 13-foot lanes and ADA compliant sidewalks, we are improving pedestrian and bicycle pathways into the village and making it safer for everyone.

The state historic preservation officials have told me that there are no red flags with our design because we are staying within the right of way and utilizing the same footprint.

We are meeting state DOT standards and federal ADA requirements.

Our design also installs proper drainage and increases green space, which everyone supports.

The 60 or so parking spaces that will remain is well beyond the average daily use. All but one home on Albany has private driveways that can accommodate multiple vehicles. We have also offered an accommodation to residents if they choose of widening the front park of their driveways to enable two cars to park side by side.

I also want to note that there was a petition presented to the board of trustees regarding Albany Avenue. After a closer look at that petition, 18 of the 38 homes inside the construction area were represented on the petition – that is representative of less than half of the homes within the construction zone.

In addition, several people who signed the petition have approached me privately to say that they are supportive of our efforts to improve Albany Avenue – they would support either 10- or 13-foot lanes. But they also want to be supportive of a few of their neighbors.

I believe the design option that includes the 13-foot travel lane is representative of the majority of residents, is the safest option, meets all NYS DOT and federal regulations, solves the drainage problem, and preserves the historic character of Albany Avenue.