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It’s Dead

January 22nd, 2014

Lake Avenue Improvement Project
Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you with the alarming headline, but the traffic-calming project that was proposed for Lake Avenue (at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery) is dead. I received word yesterday from a friend in Charlotte that Mayor Lovely Warren has ordered City engineers to kill the planned lane reduction. Warren caved in to pressure from Charlotte residents & merchants who feared the lane reduction would cause traffic jams and hurt businesses in Charlotte.

In addition to reconstructing the 1 mile section of Lake Avenue, the plan would have reduced the lanes from four to three – with one lane in each direction plus a center turn lane. Why would the City take away traffic lanes?! Relax, you don’t have to worry about it anymore…

Lake Avenue Improvement Project, cross-section.
What? You’re still reading this? If you were opposed to the road diet and you’re looking for me to say APRIL FOOLS or something, it’s not going to happen. Lake Ave will be keeping all of it’s auto lanes. You won.

Seriously. You can stop reading now.

Boy that was awkward. Okay, now that we’re all alone, here’s why I am still in favor of the 4 to 3 lane reduction…

  1. This road has too much capacity for the level of traffic today. Don’t believe me? Read the traffic study external link Or better yet, go for a drive on it. When Kodak was still the 800 pound guerilla in the neighborhood, four lanes were probably necessary. But not anymore. Now all of that extra asphalt and the maintenance that goes with it is simply costing taxpayers.
  2. The extra road capacity also means that drivers feel comfortable enough to speed. According to the City’s own study, auto speeds currently reach and exceed 48 mph along this stretch. That’s not safe for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers or their passengers. Reducing the number of auto lanes is the only truly effective way to reduce those speeds. You can plant street trees or post signs… you can even put a traffic cop out there once in a while. But those things will cost more money… and in the long run they won’t compare to the road diet.
  3. The impact to traffic would be minimal, if any. This is primarily because left turn lanes would be added. Get the left turning vehicles out of the way, and traffic moves right along. Also, pull-off areas would be provided for RTS buses. Again, no buses in the right lane to slow traffic. For these reasons, a 3-lane road can handle the same amount of traffic as a 4-lane road (and in some cases it can handle more traffic). This isn’t speculation. It’s been done and proven. You needn’t look further than Dewey Ave. or Seabreeze Drive. Did the businesses at Seabreeze suffer after 590 was reduced? Nope. I know this because I spoke to them last week.
  4. The City’s traffic analysis also found the most common types of accidents along this stretch were passing and rear-end crashes. These accidents could be mitigated with the three-lane system, precisely for the reasons stated above. When a car stops in a moving traffic lane to turn left it causes congestion, blind spots, unsafe lane changes, and changes in vehicle speeds. By adding a left turn lane and removing turning vehicles from the equation, a safer roadway is created.
  5. By reducing the roadway from four lanes to two, space would be freed up for bicycle lanes. Currently cyclists must ride in automobile traffic or on the sidewalk. Hopefully the project engineers can figure out a way to keep the bike lanes. But because there’s only so much space, this will require some creative engineering. And we all know creativity adds cost.
  6. Last, but definitely not least… The lane reduction would have made it easier and safer for pedestrians to cross the street. Not only would you have a shorter distance from curb to curb, but also a center median/island to use as shelter. You could cross one lane, take a breather, and then cross the other lane. Ever try to cross four lanes of moving traffic with no signal? It’s not fun. This is especially worrisome for the residents of St. Bernards Park Apartments. These people are all 55 and older, and many of them rely on the bus stop across the street. Sorry guys. We tried.

Drivers regularly travel at speeds in excess of the posted 35 mph speed limit along Lake Avenue.
I sincerely hope nobody gets seriously injured on this stretch of road. Because if they do, someone will have to live with that on their conscious. It won’t be me.

• • •

About the money…

One of the most popular complaints I heard about the road diet was that the project was going to cost $30 Million. In reality, the construction budget is under $5.9 Million. That is fairly typical when a road is rebuilt. So now we’ll pay the same $5.9 Million, plus more in the long run because we’ll have to maintain four lanes that we don’t really need.

• • •

What about emergency vehicles?

Another myth that was spread around was that emergency vehicles would be not be able to get through if the lanes were reduced. Upon inspection of the plans external link, you will see the width of the roadway would still be wide enough for two vehicles side by side. Let’s do the math… 11′ automobile lane + 5′ bike lane + a few extra inches between the yellow line and the median = 16.5″ …that’s enough space for two firetrucks to pass each other. And even if that’s not enough width, the center median would have mountable curbs. Those are low profile curbs with a 45 degree bevel – so that vehicles can literally drive up on the median if they needed to.

• • •

You can still voice your support for safer streets

Now is as good a time as any to remind your mayor and city council representatives that vibrant neighborhoods require walkable streets. Give them a call or send a friendly email. Let them know you support the 4-3 road diet and the good work our City traffic engineers have been doing…

Mayor Lovely Warren
info@cityofrochester.gov
585-428-7045

Councilmembers:

Carla M. Palumbo, Northwest District
Carla.Palumbo@cityofrochester.gov
585-428-7538


Adam McFadden, South District
Adam.McFadden@cityofrochester.gov
585-428-7538

Elaine M. Spaull, East District
Elaine.Spaull@cityofrochester.gov
585-428-7538

Michael A. Patterson, Northeast District
Michael.Patterson@cityofrochester.gov
585-428-7538

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 at 10:44 pm and is filed under Opinion, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

26 Responses to “It’s Dead”

  1. Michael Brisson says:

    Bummer.

    Thanks for the info. I’ve written to the City reps listed above.

    Michael

  2. Renee says:

    Dead dead? Darn it. The improvements to East Ave made a HUGE impact on the walkability/bikability of that gorgeous avenue (an avenue that begs to be walked and biked along). With 4 lanes, it was a scary place when you were walking on the sidewalk, crossing the street and even driving. And forget about trying to ride a bike in that 4 lane traffic. That improvement has had an enormous positive impact on the quality of life for those that live, work and frequent that area.

  3. Mike Hall says:

    This just shows how inexperienced Warren truly is and is another sign of what’s to come. I hope she educates herself on the obvious negative effects that the automobile industry has had on our city before she makes another mistake on future efforts to revitalize what has been lost. Lets not forget that she was a part of the removal of 13 Cataract Street.

  4. Dave Gottfried says:

    Woah, wait a second, Warren “caved in to pressure from Charlotte residents & merchants”? It seems to me she listened to a segment of her constituency that lives, works, and utilizes that area on a daily basis and listened to them – the majority of whom were opposed to narrowing the road.

  5. RaChaCha says:

    Gee, good thing Jeff Speck came to Rochester to educate the community on good road design! Right?!

  6. DJ says:

    Dave, it’s certainly not a crime to listen to your constituents. But it shows negative on her to ignore progressive ideas. Business owners are naturally conservative bc they want to at least maintain current levels of business and see ANY change as bad. Those business owners/locals aren’t experts on city planning. They are ignorant of fairly new PROVEN successful trends like road diets that actually stand to improve business. The lesson here is: listen to the experts & educate yourself.

  7. Doug says:

    I like how Warren’s Chief of Staff was at the Jeff Speck lecture and apparently was sleeping the whole time. Or at least when Jeff spoke about the massive benefits of 4-3 road diets.

  8. Marshall Allen says:

    This is crazy! After being at Jeff Specks talk on Tuesday about creating a walkable city and then seeing this, where are our city leaders heads?? You bet I just wrote a well crafted email to those you listed above and hopefully I will get some sort of response. Come on Rochester!!

  9. As president of the Charlotte Merchants Association, I would like to comment on behalf of the business owners. We welcome change in Charlotte, we NEED change. Our opposing position on lane reductions to the main roadway into Charlotte is valid, with many factors that should be considered. Ground has been broke on a new Marina and we will be enduring major construction through the next few summers, along with some other local street construction projects. It’s extremely challenging to sustain a successful business year around in an area that is often thought of as seasonal, and with all this construction it will make it even more difficult during our short summer season. If Lake Ave is tore up as well as our major beach parking lot, it could be a death sentence for many of us. We would support a revised plan to be implemented in the future, there is room on Lake Ave through the cemetery passage to add a bike path AND retain four lanes of traffic. What about a pedestrian/bike bridge over Lake Ave at Turning Point Park paired with some other traffic calming efforts/safer crosswalks etc? But Lake Ave is the only direct access from the city to our community, reducing it to one lane just doesn’t make sense with the marina and planned condo additions. Charlotte/Ontario Beach is a beautiful natural resource with some vibrant unique businesses, but please understand that we are not downtown Rochester with a huge walking population, we needs cars, parking and easy access from the city. We travel Lake Ave every day, we live and conduct business here year around, our opinion matters. Thanks you for supporting us year around, hope to see you at Winter Fest February 8th and 9th. Thank you

  10. LikeWhereULive says:

    What about the segment of the constituency that lives, works, and utilizes the area on a daily basis and IS in favor of the project? I am a Charlotte resident and I do not think it is fair to assume that “the majority of whom were opposed to narrowing the road”. My neighbors and I wholly supported it.

  11. Matthew Denker says:

    This is deeply disappointing. Rochester has more excess road capacity than it could ever use, and, as with most cities, is in the rather pleasant process of densifying, not continuing to spread out, which makes the excess capacity that much more unforgivable. Hopefully more progressive ideas closer to downtown manage to prevail going forward.

    The disregard for the safety of all users of Lake Ave is unfortunate, but the road isn’t going anywhere and can certainly be rebuilt in the future.

  12. Zack says:

    People will always resist change. That doesn’t mean change is bad. WE NEED THIS PROJECT.

  13. Urban Explorer says:

    The same wing nuts in Charlotte that said parking lots are more important than waterfront development are the ones arguing for 4 lane speedways. Why would you want your neighborhood to be like Sackett’s Harbor or Niagara-on-the-Lake when you can be like Henrietta or Greece instead?

    Come to think of it, the city annexed Charlotte in 1916. Maybe for the 100th anniversary, Greece will take them back. They like 4 lane roads in Greece. The city can do without Charlotte’s retro-grade anti-urbanism.

    And shame on Carla Palumbo, Lovely Warren, and new DES Commissioner Norm Jones for caving into hysterics and misinformation! Why should our “leaders” concern themselves with FACTS about roadway design and safety when there’s a village full of idiots up in Charlotte who need appeasement? An embarrassing lack of leadership for Rochester.

  14. Urban Explorer says:

    Lake Avenue is NOT the only direct access from Charlotte to the city. The city is not an island. Within a 2.5 mile wide corridor, there are four (FOUR!!!) parallel roads: Lake, Dewey, Mt. Read, and 390. All of which can be used to access Charlotte from points south. Can’t one of these four be made into a slower, safer, corridor that accommodates motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. PLUS there’s St. Paul on the east side of the river.

    Not that one person’s boycott will make a difference, but you can be damn sure I WON’T be going to the winter carnival and certainly won’t be spending my money at any Charlotte businesses. Actions have consequences. A segment of the population wants a more progressive, more equitable, more walkable community and Charlotte doesn’t get it. Enjoy your cars and the thousands of dollars a year it costs to own and maintain one. I prefer the freedom of walking, biking, and taking the bus.

  15. JE says:

    Agree with Urban Explorer and those in favor of 4-3. Biking through the Lake Ave area is not possible (safely). East Ave has been nothing but improved from a lane diet. I will avoid promoting Charlotte with dollars and feet as much as possible.

  16. DJ says:

    I want to take a minute to respect Marianne’s (Charlotte Merchant’s Assoc.) opposing viewpoint. Construction absolutely hinders business, and those businesses rely on real dollars, not theoretical future increased foot traffic/safety.

    …That being said, I still wholeheartedly disagree with canceling the road diet. It would be safer for everyone (drivers, walkers, bikers). Added walkers, bikers and slower moving drivers (who hv more time to gawk out their window at your businesses) means a better business environment for existing and new businesses to thrive.

    Another often misunderstood aspect of road diets is that they create bottlenecks and make commutes longer. In many cases they actually make a trip faster by reducing the inefficiency of the left hand lane being used for turns.

    I think a possible compromise that would satisfy businesses would be to subsidize lost revenue due to construction. Have the businesses turn in their financial statements from 2013 and then again in 2014. If there’s a big difference in revenue from ’13 to ’14 the City would budget into the construction project to subsidize the lost revenue. Everybody wins! I should be Mayor. (pats self on back)

    So in conclusion I want to respect the Merchants Association but I still think they are short-sighted and disagree with them 100%.

  17. Urban Explorer says:

    How do the Mayor’s actions on Lake Avenue relate to “the two Rochesters”?

    “…bikes are disproportionately important tools for the lowest-income workers. The reasons are simple, and something any bike commuter would recognize: biking to work is cheap and, in a growing number of cities, convenient.”

    http://streetsblog.net/2014/01/24/less-affluent-americans-more-likely-to-bike-for-transportation/#more-28918

  18. Jim Mayer says:

    Marianne, thanks for your comments. I hadn’t considered the problems caused by multiple construction projects going on at the same time, and I quite understand the desire to avoid adding another.

    When the parking lot and marina projects finish, I hope that the Charlotte Merchant Association reconsiders their opposition to the 4-3 lane conversion. I think there’s a lot of evidence out there that, when well done, 4-3 lane conversions offer strong benefits to the community. Certainly, the extra 40 seconds of time that it would take to drive the mile at 30 mph instead of 45 wouldn’t keep me from visiting the pier. Actually, a calmer road would make me more likely to visit, not less.

    By the way, I especially appreciated the tone of your comment. Too many of the “pro” comments that I’ve seen are condescending, and too many of the “anti” comments are insulting and regurgitate “facts” that don’t hold up.

  19. Matthew Denker says:

    I am incredibly sensitive to the idea that multiple construction projects could sink a business. That’s only an argument against implementing the project right now, though. As other commenters have said, this would absolutely be a net positive for the community. If the argument were, let’s stage this so the marina is built, then this is implemented, I think we’d be having a conversation and not this argument. I mean, the road diet probably should have happened years ago, but that’s a separate story, and clearly we’re here and now.

    I am, as always, worried about the tone of comments when they trend towards “We need our cars.” More than 5% of the households in Charlotte don’t own a car, and another third only own a single vehicle. Clearly these people still need to get around, and quite frankly, are valued members of the community. They also don’t seem to need cars so badly, so as always, it’s a bit of perception.

    Having biked to Charlotte myself in the past, not only could the biking be a better experience, but Charlotte is only a few short steps from being a pleasant and legitimately walkable community. Anything with a human scaled corridor such as Lake Avenue would be transformed just by small changes to RGRTA service (6 bus per hour Rt1 anyone?).

    Anyway, I do appreciate a thoughtful comment about the situation, but I wish that before the project was summarily killed, the idea of temporal staging was put forward.

  20. Jack Spula says:

    The Charlotte business interests (not to be confused with residential and other stakeholders) are mischaracterizing the project, which is not a full reconstruction and would thus be not nearly as disruptive or obstructive as they claim, especially since the core area has cemeteries on both sides. East Ave. provides the rejoinder: the narrowing to two traffic lanes there, with a mix of residential and church properties, etc., on both sides, with numerous driveways and intersections along the way, has worked very well. It seems that the lack of imagination and insensitivity to now-accepted design reforms that Lovely Warren has embraced are shared by the businessfolk of Charlotte. No wonder that neighborhood is dominated by an arterial that has become a drag-strip and magnet for the motorcycle crowd that most Rochesterians must approach with caution, when they’re not actively avoiding it.

  21. Jack Spula says:

    I realize my wording in the previous post is a little off: I didn’t mean to say Warren has embraced any reforms. Quite the opposite: during the debate over the 13 Cataract St., she distinguished herself by opposing a reasonable plan to preserve a historic, valuable building. And now she’s acted to preserve a historically wretched, dangerous stretch of roadway.

  22. Urban Explorer says:

    The mayor is now saying she received “2000 signatures from residents and legislators of the area asking that a alternative bike route be established.”

    She’s missing the point. It’s not, and never was, JUST about bikes. The 3 lane street is safer for EVERYONE: bicyclists, pedestrians, AND motorists.

    Furthermore, what does 2000 signatures from ignorant or misinformed people prove? The facts about road design and safety are well documented. Safety improvements should not be up for popular referendum.

  23. @Urban Explorer, I agree. Reconnect Rochester sent a tweet in response to her comment on Twitter this morning saying something similar. “It’s not just about the bike lanes… it’s about the safety of drivers, pedestrians and transit riders too.” The Mayor tweeted back, “that’s why this plan has to be reevaluated. We are confident that we can come up with a plan that considers all.”

    But I think the original plan DID consider ALL. What the city is doing now is giving more weight to drivers at everyone else’s peril. We shall see what the alternative plan looks like I guess. Should be interesting.

  24. Matthew Denker says:

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the failure of this plan is even sadder than I first thought. The plan for a road diet here was not even as progressive as it could have been. Imagine a 4 to 3 diet that also involved shifting traffic and offering a parking protected 2-way bike lane on one side of the street. Further, imagine bus bulbs with protected shelters the entire length of the rebuild that allowed for faster bus boarding and actual protection for riders set between the bike lane and the traffic lane. Finally, imagine Broadway (NYC) style pedestrian refugees in the middle of the street where left turns were not allowed. All in all, what was proposed happened to involve only minimal improvements. What sort of vitriol is reserved for really respecting all modes relative to the effort involved in participating?

  25. Malcolm Kelley says:

    Warren, like Richards before her, will always do anything that she thinks will help her to maintain power. It is significant that a number of people in this forum have asked all Rochesterians not to forget the efforts both Richards and Warren made to tear down two historic brewery buildings on Cataract Street. That Warren and Richards received $1000 each in campaign contributions from Genesee Brewery CEO Richard Lozyniak (a Republican from Pittsford), then worked tirelessly to make the demolition happen should also not go unnoticed.

    There have been murmurings that similar campaign contributions came from Costello in order to radically change the plans for CityGate from a neighborhood to a BIG BOX store; later on, in January 2014, Warren was able to “save the day” by breaking the County deadlock regarding CityGate. Meanwhile, the City Council, Zoning Board, and Planning Commission all act like lemmings. No new plans, no new ideas, and a clear lack of acceptance to people whose voices we should be listening to. Tools. Cretins.

  26. Nathanael says:

    Marianne, you make an argument for doing the road diet later. Fine.

    But it still seems like it should be done! Eventually the road will need repaving and it should be done at that time! 3 lane roads are already wide and carry a lot of traffic, but they’re *much* safer for pedestrians than 4-lane roads… and everyone visiting a business is eventually a pedestrian! (Unless they’re visiting a car wash!)


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