OSWEGO, NY – A handful of city residents attended a workshop Wednesday evening to help create the future of the Route 104 corridor in the Port City.
The city’s Department of Planning and Zoning hosted the event at the Quality Inn & Suites Riverfront, to hear suggestions from the public regarding the streetscape revitalization project.
Kimberly Baptiste, AICP project manager, for Bergmann Associates, the project consultant, presented an overview of the potential revitalization of the Port City’s main street.
Before the end of the year, the city intends to unveil a Route 104 Complete Streets plan, according to Mayor Billy Barlow.
It’s a process that involves an evaluation of the Route 104 corridor in the context of providing safe, convenient access and mobility for users of all ages and abilities.
The document will identify recommendations for improvements, as well as opportunities to offer greater transportation choices while maintaining efficient, reliable passage for pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and motorists.
It will include all stakeholders – children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
Wednesday’s workshop provided participants an opportunity to take part in hands-on interactive exercises to identify issues of concern and develop priorities related to streetscape design, gateways and wayfinding, green infrastructure, accessibility, traffic, and multi-modal transportation.
They were encouraged to use colored markers to indicate problem areas on maps of the route and to offer suggestions for the project overall.
Earlier in the day, several people took part in a bus tour of Route 104 from the east side to the west side of the city.
“We got out several times along the way and got to experience 104 and its challenges in some areas,” Baptiste said. “That will help us plan as the process moves forward.”
There were about 20 people on the bus tour and about two dozen at the workshop.
A “complete streets” project is a roadway planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of all roadway users of all ages and abilities, she explained. “That includes pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and motorists; including children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.”
Thirty-one percent of Oswego’s residents do not have access to a car, she pointed out. That means they are walking, using public transportation or using other means to get to where they are going, she said.
Therefore, some of the things they will consider going forward with the plan are sidewalks, bike lanes, paved shoulders, bus lanes, pedestrian amenities, traffic calming areas and more.
“Route 104 was designed for cars, it was designed with drivers in mind,” Baptiste told Oswego County Today. “What we hope to do is create a ‘complete street,’ something that can be safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities, pedestrians as well as motorists to use together.”
The final plan would likely include the redesign of sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, light posts, materials, trees, landscaping, and benches, along the entire 3.8-mile stretch of Route 104 through the city, according to Baptiste.
Not only does a project like this increase home value nearby, it also increases traffic and sales (between 30 and 60 percent nationally) in commercial areas, she said.
Some of the suggestions people offered Wednesday included making the street more narrow at problem crosswalks so it would take less time to get across, widening the street in the area where parking encroaches on the driving lane and vehicles have to merge into one lane, adding some green space and more.
Some residents questioned the sustainabily of a project of this magnitude.
Others pointed out that green spaces would be covered with snow for several months out of the year. They likely would be almost impossible for snowplow drivers to see. And, following a winter’s worth of snow and road salt, the plants would take a long time to regrow each spring – or need to be replaced altogether.
Over the course of the planning process, more public meetings and workshops will be held to share progress and gain feedback.
“We’ve received a lot of good input. There has been lots of consistency in what people are telling us about certain sections of 104,” Baptiste said.
Representatives from the NYS DOT were also on hand and are also on the advisory committee because 104 is a state road, Baptiste noted.
“They have been helping to coordinate things since day one. It’s much easier to advance things when they know the community is behind it,” she told Oswego County Today.
Administered through the Department of Planning and Zoning in coordination with the Mayor’s Office, the project is an important first step in identifying and prioritizing future needs and projects associated with the Route 104 corridor and how it relates to the surrounding neighborhoods, major nodes and destinations, and the regional transportation network, according to Amy Birdsall, director of Planning and Zoning.
The city received funding to complete the project from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
In the fall of 2015 the city retained the services of Bergmann Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in transportation and land use planning, roadway planning and design, landscape architecture and traffic, to oversee and facilitate the planning and design process.
The planning process began in March. Results from Wednesday’s workshop will be used to evaluate strategies and develop recommendations to help guide future design projects along the corridor.
The existing conditions report will be conducted this spring followed by a design alternatives report later this summer. A preferred concept report will be made during the winter and the Complete Streets plan could be started around March 2017.
Check out the project web site, www.connectoswego.com, for more information. The project’s Facebook page is also updated frequently, Baptiste said.
For additional information, contact Birdsall, at [email protected] or 315-342-8154.