Items tagged with 'traffic'
The city of Albany has a public meeting set for March 9 at Saint Rose to discuss options for the Madison Ave Road Diet. As you know, that's the project to reduce the number of traffic lanes along the corridor and, perhaps, add some sort of bike lane.
Blurbage from the meeting flyer:
The City of Albany is progressing a Locally Administered Federal Aid project to design and construct a road diet along Madison Avenue from South Allen Street to Lark Street. The project will reduce the number of travel lanes, while improving bicycle accommodations and completing all work between the existing curbs. The purpose of the meeting is to review concepts and trade-offs for two feasible alternatives and to obtain public input on the preferred Complete Streets solution.
Update March 7: From a new press release from the city Monday: "The meeting will present the preferred Complete Streets alternative, including the selected bicycle infrastructure."
The path to this point hasn't been a straight line. After the city presented five options for the road diet last summer, it scheduled a public meeting last November to present proposed plan -- and then the meeting was cancelled.
One of the most vocal groups leading up to road diet decision was a coalition pushing for protected bike lanes along the corridor -- these would lanes that are separated in some way from car traffic, either by some sort of barrier or parked cars. The argument for these lanes is that they are not only safer for cyclists, but they also feel safer, encouraging more people to bicycle. The argument against is that they could cut into the number of parking spaces available and would be more costly to maintain.
It appeared at the time, based both on the earlier public presentation and unofficial word circulating, that the city was probably leaning toward "regular" bike lanes rather than protected bike lanes. But then the meeting was cancelled and the city said the road diet was getting further review.
So... it'll be interesting to see which options are presented at this meeting -- and the arguments made for and against those options.
The public meeting is Wednesday, March
6 9 at 6:30 pm in the Lally School building (1009 Madison Avenue) at Saint Rose.
Earlier on AOA: A new pitch for protected bike lanes in Albany
The Albany Police Department released the latest bunch of numbers from the city's red light camera system this week. And for the months of October, November, and December of 2015 the system registered almost 2,900 violations across 25 intersection approaches.
We've sifted and sorted the numbers in some easy-scan tables -- and a map.
Alison emails with a question that's not exactly an Ask AOA question so much as an idea:
Should there be speed bumps in Washington Park? People often fly through there like it's the highway, which is really unsafe for everyone who uses the park. A couple years ago, I was there when a dog ran into the street and was hit by a car going way too fast. The dog should not have darted out in front of traffic of course, but in a park these things can happen, and wouldn't it be best if people were driving like they were in a crowded park full of kids, bikers, walkers, and pets?
The 'driver must stop' signs in the crosswalks aren't really working, and drivers often speed up to avoid having to stop when they see someone trying to cross. So, speed bumps in the park...friend or foe?
Alison's idea reminded us of something Albany Bagel floated earlier this year (in addition to speed bumps): car-free Saturdays in Washington Park.
For whatever reason, car/pedestrian interactions have been a frequent topic of discussion in Albany in recent years. (Whether that's a result of increased issues or increased awareness is a good question.) And city leaders have said the push for red light cameras grew out of hearing neighborhood groups consistently express concerns about traffic safety issues.
So, thoughts on whether this is a step in a good direction?
The city of Albany's red light camera system will start operating within the next two months, the Albany Police Department said Friday as part of an announcement about the selection of vendor for the system.
The city has picked GATSO USA to provide the equipment for the 20 intersections that will get cameras as part of the new system.
A couple of key details from the announcement:
The Albany Police Department released the final list of intersections for the city's new red light camera system Friday. There are 20 intersections in all.
Here's the list with some crash stats, along with a clickable map, and a few quick things and thoughts.
Map gawking: Check out this map of traffic volumes on major roads around the Capital Region. It's like an angiogram of the area's vehicle arteries.
The data is limited to roadways, marked in yellow, that are eligible for federal aid. The wider the yellow line, the higher the daily average volume.
The relative volumes probably won't be much of a surprise -- you know, it's not unexpected that I-90 through Albany and I-87 from Albany north to Saratoga County are the most-traveled arteries (each averages more than 100,000 vehicles per day).
But one thing that did strike us about the map is the way it highlights the degree to which the Capital Region sprawls northward much more than any other direction. We've always been a little curious why areas such as, say, southern Rensselaer County and southern Albany County haven't been built up like southern Saratoga County.
Earlier on AOA: The busiest Thruway exits
Now that red light cameras have been approved for Albany, where will they be set up?
The Albany Police Department is currently sifting through traffic accident and ticket data as it prepares a list of 20 proposed red light camera intersections around the city. APD assistant chief Brendan Cox says the department is hoping to have the list ready by the end of December. Along the way, Cox says APD wants to share what it's learning about intersection crashes and tickets, as well as get public input about potential camera sites.
That was one of the aims of public information session about the program Tuesday afternoon. (There was another session scheduled for Tuesday evening at Albany High School.) Cox shared some preliminary data -- including a list of intersections that are among the sites currently up for consideration.
So, let's have a look.
The Albany Common Council passed the ordinance for a red light camera demonstration project in the city Monday night. The ordinance passed 11-4 after some impassioned comments from council members.
Pending a signature on the bill from mayor Kathy Sheehan, who supports the measure, Albany will be on its way to becoming the first municipality in the Capital Region to get the automatic cameras.
Comments, the votes, the ordinance, and a few thoughts...
Talk to a lot of people in Albany about red light running and you'll probably get many stories about drivers blatantly blowing through lights. It is, anecdotally at least, a pervasive and persistent problem.
In an attempt to address the issue, the city of Albany is considering an ordinance that would allow it to place red light cameras at 20 intersections around the city. It's an interesting topic because the situation surrounding red light cameras ends up being a bit more complicated that you might at first think -- and because of the way the issue is pushing a lot of buttons for people. Opinions seem to span a range of something like "yes, the city needs this" to "no, this is a very bad idea."
Here's a walk through of the issue...
We've said this before, and we'll say it again: The Capital Region doesn't have traffic.
OK, sure, it has traffic. It has cars that go on roads and sometimes they have to slow down. Sometimes -- gasp! -- they even stop. But compared to most other larger metropolitan areas -- what passes for traffic here is nothing.
The Albany metro's national rank: #74.
INRIX figures traffic and congestion in this area caused a typical commuter to "waste" 3.6 hours over the course of the year. That's roughly 29 seconds per commuting trip.
That's down a bit from the previous year, in which INRIX figured the average commuter was caught for 4.6 hours.
To put this in some perspective, here are the figures for the top 5 most congested metros in the INRIX rankings (metro - hours per year):
1. Los Angeles - 60.3 hours
2. Honolulu - 51.1 hours
3. San Francisco - 49.7 hours
4. Austin - 38.7 hours
5. New York - 51.5 hours
Stick that in your breakfast taco, Austin.
Obviously, those metros are larger, so it's natural they'd be more congested. And Albany would probably be willing to trade some increases in congestion for some of the stuff those places have. But, hey, we'll think about that while we're relaxing at home after a short commute home.
Here's an explainer on the methodology.
Bonus commuting fact: The average commute time in the Albany metro area was 22.2 minutes in 2010, according to Census Bureau estimates. That was less than the national average (25.4). And it ranked 276th in the nation.
This has been a bad week for pedestrians. One person was killed on Central Ave in Albany, another hit just up the street during a vigil for the first person. And in North Greenbush, a pedestrian was hit by truck with a snowplow attached. [TU] [Troy Record]
Unfortunately, a week like this isn't surprising. I walk a lot -- because I have a dog, because I prefer it to driving when possible, just because I like it. Rare is the week that I don't have a an encounter with a vehicle that's a little too close. A lot of times it's a result of something a driver did (or didn't do) -- roll through a right on red, not respect a crosswalk, or just not pay attention to what's going on. But I'm also sure there are times I could have been a better pedestrian.
So, pedestrians and drivers need to come to some sort of understanding. And toward that end, here's a pledge for pedestrians and drivers (and municipalities) to do better...
The new flyover/circle at Washington Ave and Fuller Road in Albany opened Monday morning. The final section -- the re-routed eastbound side of Washington Ave Extension north of the new nanotech buidling -- was connected over the weekend. It's an important intersection -- about 30,000 vehicles pass through it each day, according to NYSDOT.
We happened to be out that way yesterday so we gave the florcle a few spins.
A few initial impressions...
This should keep things interesting at the busy Washington Ave/Fuller Road intersection in Albany: Fuller Road will be closed between Washington Ave and the ramps for I-90 from today until the morning of September 25.* (Fuller will be open from the ramps north to Central Ave.)
If you've passed by there recently, you've probably noticed the progress on the new circle/flyover (we're calling it a "florcle") that's part of the re-alignment of Washington Ave. The road is being moved to open up space for Albany NanoTech.
*The message boards on I-90 yesterday said the road would be closed until September 23. The September 25 date is from NY511 (full text post jump -- it'd be great to be able to permalink stuff there).
Speaking of closures: the weekend closure of the northbound side of the Twin Bridges starts this Friday night. Northbound traffic will be routed over the southbound bridge. Both directions will be sharing the same bridge (heartwarming, right). That means there will be one lane for each direction, which will probably mean traffic backups at times.
This weekend is the first of six weekend closures as part of the deck replacement for the bridge. The southbound bridge will get the same treatment next spring.
Generally, the thinking among U.S. transit officials is that "choice riders" -- those who don't have to take transit but opt to because of its convenience -- are willing to ride subways, light rail and streetcars, but not buses. Advocates of BRT argue that bus service itself isn't the problem; it's the way the service is implemented. Offer riders buses that are fast, clean and safe, they say, and passengers will embrace them. "If you build it right, people will come," says Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City's transportation commissioner. "People aren't going to get on dirty buses that are slow."
The article hits on the potential of such systems, but also their problems and critics -- including those who say that BRT is just a decision to "cheap out" on building more robust systems like light rail.
When transportation issues come up here, people often call out for light rail. But here's the thing: the chances of that ever happening in the Capital Region are very small. Building such a system would cost a ton of money (that Governing article mentions the projected cost of 7 miles of light rail in Cleveland was $1 billion). And it would be a political nightmare -- any worthwhile system here would cross numerous municipal lines, requiring the cooperation (or at least non-opposition) of a long string of county and local governments. It'd be like setting off an atomic NIMBY bomb.
BusPlus isn't perfect -- far from it. CDTA needs to keep adding features and make the system faster in order to at least fulfill its initial promise. And it will have to expand the service to make it more than a Albany-Schenectady express line. There's a long way to go. But it's probably the closest thing we'll get to a transit rail system.
The battery died. That's why I became a semi-regular bus rider.
When the battery finally conked out for good on one of our cars, it was going to be a day or two before I'd be able to buy a new one to replace it. And my wife needed the car the next day -- so I took the bus downtown.
That ride started a mostly unplanned experiment in becoming a one-car household. We had kicked around the idea of not replacing our older car whenever its time came to be donated/junked/Craigslisted. But talking about that and actually doing that are two different things. So, the dead battery was an opportunity to try it out.
We still have the car, but we haven't driven it in about two months. In that time I've become a semi-regular bus rider.
Here are a few things I've learned, remembered, or noted along the way...
The state Department of Transportation announced this week that the $29 million project to replace the decks on the Twin Bridges (ahem, the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge) will start this month.NYSDOT says traffic disruptions will be "minimal" during the summer travel season.
The heavy work -- the stuff that sounds like something more than a minimal disruption -- will start in late summer. NYSDOT says the northbound bridge will be closed for six weekends so the decks can be replaced. Traffic will be routed in both directions -- one lane each -- over what would normally be the southbound bridge. The weekend closures won't start until after Labor Day.
The work will then switch to the southbound bridge for six weekends next spring.
The Twins carry more than 100,000 vehicles each day, according to NYSDOT.
Earlier on AOA: Kosciuszk-who?
Worth pointing out (again): the Albany metro area has a relatively low level of traffic congestion. In fact, compared to a lot of large metros, it essentially doesn't have traffic.
The Albany metro area ranked 78th for traffic congestion during the 12 months that ended in April 2012, according to the traffic data firm INRIX. Trips here on average took 2.1 percent more time because of congestion (down from 3.6 percent during the same period the year before). It estimates that the average driver here wasted 4.1 hours during that period because of congestion.
For some context: the most congested metro area last year was Honolulu, where INRIX figures drivers wasted 58 hours during the year. The Honolulu metro is roughly the same size as Albany-Schenectady-Troy in terms of population (Honolulu is #53, Albany is #59).
The time of the week with the most congestion? Thursday and Friday afternoon rush hour.
INRIX didn't identify any corridor bottlenecks here. The most congested corridor in the nation was a portion of the 405 in LA.
Austin: Q: Why did the semiconductor consortium cross the road to Albany? A: Maybe because it couldn't cross the road in Austin -- the Texas city had the 6th worst traffic congestion in the nation.
We're joking about that. Mostly. But there's research that traffic and commuting make people unhappy -- and that we often underestimate the degree to which it's a downer. [Wired]
Here's the INRIX explainer on methodology. Last year were able to find out which roadways it was tracking in this area -- we can't find that this year. (Last year it was I-87, I-90, I-787, I-890, and Route 7.)
The $20.8 million reconstruction of part of I-787 in downtown Albany (between exits 3B and 4) officially started today. (It actually started last week -- you might have noticed the lane closure on the northbound side). From the NYSDOT press release:
The I-787 rehabilitation project will include replacing the concrete driving surface, along with bridge bearings and joints, and rehabilitating the Clinton Avenue interchange ramps. The project will make the bridges along this stretch of interstate safer and provide a smoother driving surface for motorists. Quay Street and Water Street also will be paved as part of the project. ...
This year's I-787 work, focusing on the northbound lanes, began last week with a left lane closure. The lane is expected to be closed until early June. From June to September the right lane of I-787 northbound and the ramp from Clinton Avenue to I-787 northbound will be closed. The project is expected to wrap up for the season in November.
Also: "Significant traffic delays are expected, especially during the afternoon peak commuting hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m."
The southbound side will get attention next summer. Projected completion: fall 2013.
Earlier on AOA: "The Life and Death of Urban Highways"
The state Department of Transportation announced today that the realignment of the Washington Ave Ext/Fuller Road intersection has started. (You might have noticed the recent tree clearing around the site.) From the press release:
NYSDOT will realign Washington Ave. Ext. to the north and install a two-lane roundabout at the Fuller Road/County Road 156 intersection. A flyover bridge will be built to carry through-traffic, thereby removing 20,000 cars daily from the intersection and providing improved access to CNSE's Albany NanoTech Complex, which is currently engaged in a $366 million expansion project. Nearly 30,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each day.
Pedestrian and bicycle access will be improved with new sidewalks and a new, 10-foot bicycle lane that will connect to existing bike trails. Reduced congestion will enhance transit schedules; new bus bays on Washington Ave. Ext. will provide safer stopping areas for riders.
Most of the work can be done without impacting traffic. More than 3.5 miles of Washington Ave and Washington Ave. Ext. will be reconstructed, together with a half mile stretch of Fuller Rd.
NYSDOT says it's an $18 million project, funded by the Fuller Road Management Corporation -- a not-for-profit org created to manage the nanotechnology facilities at UAlbany's CNSE -- Albany County, and the state. It says FRMC is picking up 45 percent of the cost.
The project is expected to be "substantially completed" this fall -- with minor work on Fuller Road next summer. The re-alignment will open up more space for Albany NanoTech. (The area under the bridge that currently spans Wash Ave Ext will become a parking lot.)
Large-format renderings are after the jump.
So, what's this intersection called? We were hoping that a flyover bridge over a roundabout had a special name or transpo planner slang -- you know, like SPUI. So we checked with NYSOT spokeswoman Carol Breen -- and, alas, it does not. Of course, that's an opportunity to coin one. Florcle? FlyAbout? Roflyover?
Check it out: Rob Gierthy emailed us with a video he created of commute home via bike:
I have a small video camera attached to my bike that I record my commutes with. This past Monday was such a surprisingly nice day that I thought I would share it and uploaded the video to YouTube. It documents a slow ride up the sidewalk on Madison (I know I shouldn't be on the sidewalk, but the traffic is so congested there that it seemed safer), down and across Swan to Hudson, and then through Washington Park. It might not be that exciting but for me it is a celebration of the arrival of spring.
There's a surprising zen quality about watching the video. And the images (cinematography? biketography?) are beautiful in spots -- the wide angle lens makes the sky look huge.
A little more from Rob about his commute
I've been commuting by bicycle the two miles to my job at the Empire State Plaza for almost a year now. My initial plan was to keep going until it got too cold and then stop, but a combination of a mild winter and my stubbornness kept that from happening. Covered in wool from head to toe during those cold months I forgot how enjoyable biking actually is. Now that it is suddenly warm enough that I can bike in shorts and sandals it is a revelation. No longer is it a mental and physical struggle to fight the wind and cold. Instead it is fun and liberating. The warm breeze feels great and actually seeing people out reminds me that I don't live in a barren lifeless wasteland.
Today's moment of grumpy-old-man-style parking crankiness: It's remarkable that people can park right in the middle of State Street in downtown Albany for a length of time without a getting a ticket.
It's not like they're hard to miss. They're right in the middle of the street.
That is all.
Potentially interesting: Troy mayor Lou Rosamilia has floated the idea of permanently closing some downtown streets to vehicle traffic in order to create a pedestrian mall, the Biz Review reports. [Biz Review]
But the pedestrian mall isn't a new concept. Kalamazoo, Michigan first tried it in 1959. Many cities followed with their own pedestrian malls -- and a large majority of them failed. (Kalamazoo re-opened part of its mall to vehicular traffic in the late 90s.) There have been some notable successes, though. For example, Burlington's pedestrian mall, Church Street, is great. [Wikipedia] [Indianapolis Downtown Inc. study] [Kalamazoo Public Library]
The thing about a pedestrian mall area is that you need people. Downtown Troy has good foot traffic during the day -- it's maybe our favorite Capital Region downtown in daylight. Will there be enough people the rest of the time to make it worth it? Public spaces without people tend to go the wrong way. If the City Center and City Station projects are successful, maybe. [Governing]
Of course, there are a lot of details that would have be figured out for this idea -- which streets, how to address parking issues, how to address access for shipments to shops and businesses. But it's an interesting idea.
photo: Flickr user redjar
Choose your own adventure time: You're at the traffic light at the end of the I-90/Route 9 off-ramp at Northern Boulevard in Albany. There are four cars waiting to turn left at the red light. You wait. You wait. You wait. Minutes pass. The light doesn't change. Do you...
1. Turn left on red.
2. Go around one of the cars ahead of you so you can turn left on red.
3. Move to the right lane so you can turn right on red.
4. Sit there and hope that the light will change. Someday.
I'm curious about what you would have done in that situation. Because this happened to me the other day -- and the choices made by the other three cars in line surprised me. It made me wonder I had missed some memo about community standards regarding slow-cycling/possibly broken traffic lights.
Here's how it shook out.
Mark Delfs, the creator of the local fill-in musician site GigSavers, emails:
With the knowledge I gained from teaching myself how to construct [GigSavers], I made a followup site called "The Northway Reporter," which will allow the typical Northway driver an opportunity to report all the traffic incidents they see on a daily basis--the radio is too slow with reports and while I was stuck in traffic the other morning, I figured on making a site that we could all use to report (and get reports) about why we are all still getting stuck in traffic on I-87.
The site is formatted for mobile browsers (is it texting-while-driving if traffic's not moving?) and includes links to traffic cams. There's also a Twitter feed. More features are listed after the jump.
This kind of thing usually only becomes useful if a bunch of people use it. But even if it never reaches that point, we give credit to Mark for building it. A lot of people say "Wouldn't it be great if (fill in possibly useful thing) existed..." -- very few actually do something about it.
You've probably noticed there's a lot going on at the super busy intersection of Fuller Road and Washington Ave in Albany. What with the hill that's now gone, and the large structure rising in its place, it's hard to miss -- whether you're driving along Washington, Fuller or the stretch of I-90 along there.
Here's what's up...
(Previous NYS DOT info about bridge closings now after the jump.)
As Chuck Schumer pointed out this week, bridges around the state weren't in such great shape before Irene -- and all the flooding isn't helping.
Inspection scores for bridges around the state are posted online (be sure to read the explanation of the ratings).
The state Department of Transportation announced Wednesday night that it was immediately closing the South Mall Expressway -- that's Routes 9 and 20 between the Empire State Plaza and the Dunn Memorial Bridge -- because an inspection found cracks in beams that support the road. The full release -- with suggested alternate routes -- is after the jump.
Also part of the closure: the Madison Avenue off-ramp from I-787 south, the South Pearl Street on-ramp leading to the Dunn Memorial Bridge, and the part of Broadway between the Quay Street Connector and Madison Avenue.
The Dunn is still open, but down to one westbound lane (that is, heading toward Albany). Albany police say they expect backups Thursday morning, maybe as far back as Rensselaer. They're suggesting people use alternate routes if possible.
The Albany metro area has nation's 80th most congested traffic, according to the annual rankings compiled by a company called INRIX. Or, as people from most major metros might describe the findings: we don't have traffic here.
The Albany metro scored its #80 ranking despite being the 58th largest metro. This area has just one percent of the peak period congestion as the #1 spot on the list, Los Angeles. INRX figures that congestion caused trips on the Capital Region's major roads to take just two percent longer in 2010 than they otherwise would during free flowing traffic (compared to the 10 percent national average).
INRIX didn't identify any congested corridors or bottlenecks here. (The most congested corridor in the nation: the Cross Bronx Expressway.)
The worst traffic time of the week? Friday between 5:15 and 5:30, where trips take a whopping 7 percent longer than they otherwise would. Yes, you better call ahead to let them know you'll be a little late.
The survey only covered metro area's major highways (I-87, I-90, I-787, I-890, Route 7). Here's more on the methodology.
Earlier on AOA: Traffic lights and ants
Interesting: Sanjay Goel, a UAlbany professor, has gotten a $378,375 grant to study how traffic light systems might be designed to produce emergent behavior. In other words, could traffic lights self-organize -- like ant colonies -- to enable better traffic flows.
From the press release:
Goel believes that each traffic light, like each ant, should make its own decision to communicate with the next light. That way, a driver crossing the intersection at midnight wouldn't have to wait for long minutes at a red light while there is no other traffic. ...
"The goal is to develop self-organizing algorithms and conduct simulation and modeling that would involve selection of intersections in Albany to test some algorithms," said Goel. "The focus of the study is to understand the limitations of this approach and find out where such techniques can fail or under what conditions we may get bottlenecks or chaos in traffic," he said.
Goel is looking for just the right intersections. "We will pick a variety of places where there is fast-moving traffic in the city," he said.
If someone can figure out how to make the traffic lights on Western Ave work together so as not to induce road-rage-levels of frustration in drivers along that stretch -- well, that person would deserve some sort of prize.
By the way: Have you stood next to one of the old traffic signal boxes around Albany (pic on the right)? If you listen carefully, you can hear the parts moving in there as the lights change.
The new configuration of the Exit 6 interchange in Latham opened today. It's the Capital Region's first single point urban interchange -- or, as its friends like to call it, a SPUI.
We stopped today around 5 pm to check it out. Traffic appeared to be moving through the intersection smoothly. Watching it for a few minutes, the flow has a certain grace to it, as the gently arcing lines of traffic slip past each other.
About that. Driving through the broad open area of the intersection didn't feel weird, but we could see how some people might not feel totally comfortable at first (though, really, it's not bad... just different). The state DOT has posted directions on how to the use the intersection, along with a diagram.
There are actually a few interesting bits in there. For example, the traffic lights on the "slip ramps" are there only for pedestrians (a pedestrian has to push the button to activate them).
The interchange isn't completely finished. But it looks good. More photos after the jump.
Update: Now with hot SPUI video.
(Thanks to Wendy to for the heads-up!)
The roads that will be closed for part of Saturday | View in a larger map
There are a bunch of parking restrictions and road closures in/around Washington Park this weekend because of the Freihofer's Run for Women.
The full list is after the jump.
Just a reminder that Exit 6 on the Northway in Latham will be closed this weekend for construction on the SPUI. The ramps to/from I-87 are scheduled to close at 10 pm Friday night and open back up at 6 am Monday. There will also be lane closures on Route 7.
In other words: avoid, if you can. Here's a list of detours.
This weekend's work on the SPUI "marks a major milestone in the project and the approximate halfway point in this year's work," according to the state Department of Transportation. Barring any "unforeseen issues," the agency is projecting the interchanged will be open in the new Single Point Urban Interchange configuration "sometime in October 2010." The whole project is scheduled to be finished in 2011. Total cost: $41.9 million.
This year's CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge race is Thursday in Albany -- and there will be a bunch of parking restrictions and road closures. The list is after the jump.
Organizers says last year's race had record turnout -- 7,715 runners and 434 participating companies/organizations. (A short photo set from last year's race by B.)
Tom Benware might have passed you in traffic. On his bike. Which was on the side of a bus.
Tom appears on a CDTA bus as a part of a new initiative launched in April encouraging Capital Region motorists and cyclists to share the road.
In real life, the Delmar resident is a transportation guru, public transit advocate and 1,000-mile-a-year cyclist. He worked at the state Department of Transportation for 14 years and now he's the senior legislative analyst for the New York State Senate Transportation Committee. Just last week he helped advance new legislation that would require New York roads be designed with all users in mind - not just drivers.
I took a moment to talk with Tom about biking in the Capital Region, his favorite places to ride and what it's like to see yourself on the side of a bus.
The NYS Thruway Authority announced today that it will be spending $110 million to reconstruct and widen the Thruway from Exit 23 (Albany, I-787) to Exit 24 (Albany, I-87). The plan is add one new lane in each direction -- which would bring to the stretch to three lanes on each side.
A mini-site for the project says construction is scheduled to start in mid-2011,
with completion scheduled for 2012. It says no detours are expected -- a temporary lane will be added to the median during construction.
That stretch of Thruway runs along the back of a bunch of residential neighborhoods. The "project is not anticipated to directly impact adjacent land uses," according to the site. It does report that the extra lanes "may increase noise levels." The document says noise will be monitored and some sort of sound mitigation might be an option (example: noise walls).
The Thruway says a 2002 study reported that an average of 48,100 vehicles traveled on that stretch daily. That study concluded that northbound traffic operated at an "unacceptable Level of Service" and southbound traffic was projected to reach that point in... 2008.
Update: The TU reports the project is scheduled to start April 2011 and be finished in the fall of 2013. The project's chief engineer told the Gazette that stretch of Thruway is in "in significant disrepair."
The Thruway also announced today it will be resurfacing pavement on the following stretches:
- from milepost 121, south of Interchange 21B (Coxsackie) to milepost 141 near Interchange 23 (Albany, I-787)
- from Interchange 24 (Albany, I-87) at milepost 148.15 to west of Interchange 25 (Schenectady, I-890) at milepost 153.85
- nearly seven miles of pavement resurfacing and safety upgrades on the Berkshire Spur, from the Canaan Toll Barrier to the Massachusetts State Line, approximately $7.5 million.
The condition of roads in the Albany area costs an average driver $1,145 a year, according to a research group called TRIP. The think tank came to that conclusion as part of an overall survey of New York State's surface transportation system.
Here's how TRIP breaks down the cost of the condition of the Capital Region's roads:
What the state DOT is calling a "major road work event" began this week on Route 7 near Exit 6 on the Northway. The project has temporarily re-routed Route 7 west of the Northway.
If last night's traffic is any indication, the situation will be a mess all week. The westbound traffic was backed up into the box for the intersection for the off-ramp from I-87N. And people were being less than conscientious about clearing the intersection. There was honking.
You might want to avoid that stretch if you can. Route 155/Albany-Shaker (Exit 4) will take you around the south side of the airport and drop you off beyond the construction on Route 7.
Earlier on AOA: It's pronounced "spoo-ee"
Hollywood is in town, which is either exciting or annoying, depending on where you live and where you work. Next week Columbia Pictures will start shooting in Albany for the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg movie "The Other Guys."
Since the scenes will be shot on the streets of downtown Albany, parts of downtown will be closed to road and pedestrian traffic. So if you live or work downtown, you're going to
need to plan ahead. And if you just want to...you know ... gawk at movie stars (well, stunt people) and take pictures, you'll know need to know where to do that too.
Scheduled closings and detours and filming sites after the jump:
We'd like to bike more in the Capital Region. Really, we would. But frankly, we're a bit, well, chicken. OK, maybe not exactly chicken. It's just that riding a bike in an area with few bike lanes and often-inconsiderate drivers seems a bit hazardous.
Which is why Tamara Flanders new class on how to "drive" a bike looked interesting to us. Flanders is a holistic health teacher who added a class for novice adult cyclists to her repertoire this spring.
Jen snapped those pics Saturday morning while driving down North Main in Albany.
We can only hope that she was able to detour over to Manning and avoid the undead traffic.
If hordes of brain-eating zombies weren't ahead, perhaps the sign was inspired by a similar prank in Austin.
Earlier on AOA: Zombie Police of Schenectady
So, yesterday wasn't exactly the best traffic day in the Capital Region.
Part of Rt 9 was shutdown near the Crescent Bridge during the morning commute because of the Saratoga Winners fire. Salt filming tied up things downtown in the evening -- and apparently Dane Cook's appearance at the TU Center didn't help. I-90 was apparently jammed, too. And Western Ave was backed up.
The downtown tie-ups are understandable. But why I-90 and Western? Anyone know the scoop?
By the way: what we call "traffic" here is what most metropolitan areas call "a few people on the road." Albany/Schenectady/Troy ranked 75th among the 100 biggest metros last year for traffic congestion. The rankings are from a firm called INRX, which uses GPS data to measure traffic. According to their data, Thursday from 5-6 pm was the worst travel hour in the Capital Region in 2007.
Here's what Google's traffic map says a typical Thursday evening commute looks like.
photo: World Economic Forum
After James saw our post last week about the SPUI that's coming to Latham (say "spoo-ee"), he mentioned it to his friend Bill Rusham, who's a traffic engineer and the host of Talking Traffic, a podcast about, well... traffic. (Behold the glory of the interwebs.)
So Bill spent some time on the podcast talking about SPUIs, "the interchange that's shaking things up around the country." Here's a clip from the episode:
So, here you are, sitting at a signal, wanting to turn left onto the cross street. Your light turns green and you proceed into the interesection, but OH MY GOD! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT OTHER CAR DOING! HE'S DRIVING STRAIGHT AT ME!
Oh, no, he's making a left, too. And he's passing to my right. What is this, England?
No. This is a correctly functioning SPUI.
Bill runs through a few of the pros (fewer signals) and cons (requires "enthusiastic" upkeep) of SPUIs. The whole episode is about interchanges -- the part about SPUIs starts at 8:32.
As James emailed us, "I hope this helps... I learned a ton about SPUIs, and hopefully the rest of Albany will too."