In Westchester Guardian, February 13, 2014
Department of Development's Commissioner, Luiz Aragon, characterized the "Traffic Study and Gateways to the City's Downtown" as one leg of a four legged stool. At the February 4, 2014 meeting of the New Rochelle City Council, a preliminary presentation of a traffic study analysis by the Nelson Nydaard Consultants was given by Michael King. The many activities that preceded the report such as workshop, downtown and BID (Business Improvement District) meetings were mentioned. These meetings were used to determine changes in downtown that could be made that would work.
Among the guiding principles of the study were that the downtown should be safe for walking, parking should be available, and bicycles should be able to travel there. The train station was considered an important factor. The report also included connecting downtown to the hospital, Armory, Hudson Park and other areas of importance to residents.
The study in its initial stages observed people walking or driving to the train station including the routes they used. Previous studies such as the Smart Growth and Columbia University Studies were all talking about areas near the train station, whether people came on foot or by a vehicle. One suggestion in this new report is to make a connection south and north from the station to the hospital.
Throughout the presentation King referred to the Thruway Authority's plans to temporarily close North Avenue for a bridge replacement. This Thruway Authority Project according to Aragon is scheduled at this time for the summer of 2015. Continuing, King said, "Now is the time to change" traffic circulation patterns, alluding that the flow would be better after the bridge replacement occurred. According to the Department of Development this Thruway Authority closing of North Avenue which will be for about a month, has not yet been presented to the city council.
Continuous references to pedestrian safety as well as bike lanes were made. Wider sidewalks on Main Street were suggested along with making Main Street and Huguenot Street two way streets. A transit shuttle such as one run by Iona College, could be run on "North Street" King said, referring to North Avenue. The three colleges, Iona, Monroe and College of New Rochelle could be included in this effort.
According to King, intersections could be a problem. For example, the North Avenue, Huguenot Street intersection could be simplified. Aragon suggested placing some form of identification here such as the City's Cupola which would create a destination point in the city. At the Main and Webster intersection an island was suggested for pedestrian crossing. River Street could be changed to two ways for easier travel to Echo Avenue and Main Street. A few streets, such as Echo Avenue which turns into River Street, could be changed to one name.
Council woman Shari Rackman wanted to know if Main Street and Huguenot Street were changed to two way streets, whether the number of parking spaces would change. She was assured there would be no change. While King said North Avenue was always one lane, the statement needs clarification because New Rochelle residents remember, for example, when the CVS between Huguenot Street and Main Street on North Avenue, was proposed, the applicant made particular note that North Avenue had two lanes on both sides going north and south.
While it was speculated by King that "lots of things hinge" on the North Avenue bridge changes, he asked how much wider the street would be after the renovation. Aragon suggested it would be ten feet wider.
When King was asked whether he agreed with changing Main and Huguenot Streets to two ways, he suggested leaving the streets one way. Aragon added here that only New Rochelle had a one way street on "Route 1 (or Main Street). "When changing to two way traffic along with widening the sidewalks was suggested to discourage double parking, Councilman Al Tarantino felt people will "double park anyway," thus holding up traffic.
Mayor Noam Bramson thought the creative thinking in the report was "terrific." One comment made by the consultant was that people who came to the exploratory walking tour were surprised at the rapid traffic speeds in downtown. According to Chuck Strome, City Manager, the police department might find one way traffic a "nightmare." Aragon suggested meetings with council members. Bramson suggested the study could be broken down into short, medium and long term plans. King added that a transit center is a "loss leader" but it gets people around.