Consultant Proposes New Traffic Patterns during North Ave Renovations

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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.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Brian Sussman on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 03:00

This "Traffic Study and Gateways to the City's Downtown" plan, as described, sounds absurd.

Apparently, Nelson Nydaard Consultants was commissioned to come up with a traffic report, and having nothing useful to report, they came up with New Rochelle's latest folly.

Development's Commissioner, Luiz Aragon, characterized the "Traffic Study and Gateways to the City's Downtown" as one leg of a four legged stool. I am unsure if that phrasing indicated Mr Aragon was belittling the traffic report, but a four leg stool is less sturdy than a three leg stool.

I am certain that to remain functional, Main and Huguenot Streets should remain one-way streets.

What downtown New Rochelle actually needs are the following: better access to Westchester's Hutchison and/or Cross County Parkways, more downtown parking, and no more increase in south end residential building. Policies to increase usage of bicycles downtown should be discouraged, as it is very important to speed up traffic in downtown New Rochelle.

Most of Pelham Rd's apartment buildings were built during the 1950-60's, greatly increasing the south end's population. Downtown NR commerce benefitted from all the young babyboomers living there, needing food, clothing, furniture, school supplies and entertainment.

Replacing farms, the vast housing of the north end was also built during the 1950-60's. This moved the center of NR's wealthier population's towards the north end. Because reaching and shopping in downtown New Rochelle is too time-consuming and expensive, those living in the North End have always tended to shop in White Plains, Eastchester, Scarsdale and Yonkers.

In particular, Eastchester, Scarsdale and Yonkers are popular places for NR's north end to shop, because these are easy to reach and parking is plentiful and often free.

NR City Hall has continually misdiagnosed the commerce problems of NR's downtown, and has repeatedly tried variations of the same failed solutions since the early 1960's. Part of that problem is due to the tendency to hire outside consulting corporations who are ignorant of NR and whose only impulse is to think of ways for taxpayers to finance corporate welfare benefitting construction companies and their suppliers, while failing to benefit downtown commerce or increasing our tax base.

Only when downtown New Rochelle provides extensive, inexpensive parking, and a better connection to Westchester's parkways, and faster local traffic patterns, will downtown commerce thrive again, like it previously had until the mid 1960's.

Dennis Orzo on Sun, 02/16/2014 - 14:49

This video, taken sometime in the thirties, shows that North Avenue was one way, single lane, headed north between Main and Huguenot. From Huguenot north it turned into a two way street with trolley tracks going both north and south. From the video it isn't clear if North Avenue continued south past Main. The video also shows what two way traffic on Main and Huguenot was like during that period. I don't believe the streets were made any wider but the trolly is no longer competing for space. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJq41VGYbP8

Brian Sussman on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 02:51

Thank you Dennis, for posting the link to one of my favorite videos. This was originally a silent 16mm movie, which was later transferred to video and narrated by former Fire Commissioner Walter Bell, and former NR Councilman/City Judge Tom O'Toole.

Huguenot was a two-way street until the 1950's or early 1960's. Whereas, automobiles no longer competes with the trolley, there used to be less local busses and cars in general. However, prior to 1958, I-95 did not exist, so US Route 1 (Main and Huguenot) had much interstate automotive traffic passing through New Rochelle.

Until the 1930's (or 1940's?) North Ave ended at or just south of Main St. From Pelham Rd where North Ave currently exists was then Rose St. Rose St did not reach Main St, and was unconnected to North Ave.

Until about 1958, Church St ended slightly south of Pelham Rd, due to Titus Mill Pond extending behind the 'new' Trinity School almost to Harbor House. In the mid-1950's shortly after Trinity School was built, much of Titus Mill Pond was filled in to create the Church St Extension and the field behind the 'new' Trinity School.

Peggy Godfrey on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 20:01

Main and Huguenot were two ways before l950 and the southern part of North Avenue has been there for a long time as evidenced by the older houses on that street, especially near Pelham Road.

Dennis Orzo on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 23:58

Here is a link to an interesting 1892 map which indicates the street between Main and Huguenot, which was referred to as North Avenue in the video, was actually Rose Street. North Avenue began on the north side of Huguenot. http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~26253~1110016?...
From this map it looks as if North Avenue was extended south to meet Siwanoy Avenue at the intersection with Union Street. The older homes were actually on Siwanoy.

Brian Sussman on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 23:03

Although the southern part of what is currently named North Avenue has been there for a long time as evidenced by the older houses on that street, especially near Pelham Road, that part was named Roise Street and was unconnected to that part of North Ave beginning approximately at Main St and heading north.

I'll locate a map to publish here. A map fromt the 1920's will demonstrate that North Ave was unconnected to Rose St, and that North Ave did not reach Pelham Rd.

John Imburgia on Sun, 02/16/2014 - 14:25

I told the city they should turn Huguenot Street into a two way street months ago. There are few businesses on Huguenot that require parking and fewer store fronts. It would be far better if some of the Main Street traffic could be diverted there. They needed a consultant to figure that one out?

Brian Sussman on Sun, 02/16/2014 - 23:03

There are already serious parking issues on Huguenot between North and Pintard.

John Imburgia on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 18:17

If you look around the Radisson hotel, some of those streets are under utilized while others are over utilized. Parts of Hugeunot could handle more traffic. Main Street is maxed out. Just thinking out loud...

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