More on Parking lot…..and parking issues

These are Mayor’s notes from the Chatham Area Business Alliance (CABA) board meeting of 8/9/12, where they requested an update from me on the Parking Lot Behind Main St. project.

It is my firm belief that this lot should be constructed. But it cannot be funded solely by the Village, because the lot would benefit a much bigger community, the five Chathams, Columbia County, and beyond. This project might appropriately fall under business development in the Hudson Valley.

Parking Lot Behind Main St.  –   CABA meeting

In July, the proposal to have LaBerge come and do a parking study was voted down by the Village Board. THe VIllage did not budget for this, and quite simply, does not have the funds.

The LaBerge study should be done with intent of determining whether this lot should be constructed or not. If LaBerge says ‘yes, build that lot’, then we go ahead and seek grants for assisting in the construction.

CABA’s Parry Teasdale says the study should drive the grant writing. Do the study with the intent of building this lot, not just do ‘the study to nowhere’, a pointless exercise.

An earlier (1999?)study was done that pointed out plenty of parking on distant streets and lots, spots on Kinderhook St, Fairgrounds, Crellin Park. CABA noted that no one will use these facilities. Parking has to be near the use. We also need better signage for existing parking.

CABA’s Kathy Stumph’s concern is that should this lot not go ahead, the CSX may barricade the entire back lot, and THAT will be a problem.

Thoughts are that this lot be 100% funded by grants and parking revenue, with some profit to offset maintenance. Would this be metered parking, or dedicated spaces rented by the year?

Beyond the construction costs, what is the yearly upkeep requirement of snowplowing, sealing, and striping? What is insurance? Don’t forget to add the yearly Lease from CSX.

Parking issues:

Some business owners and workers are parking all day in 2 hr muni spots. This practice takes valuable customer spaces away, leads to fewer sales, and loss of business. CABA will make courtesy cards to put in car windows of regular offenders. If it persists that business owners continue to park in 2 hr spots, CABA will come to the Board asking for assistance in the problem.

  • increased parking enforcement
  • higher fines for parking ticket
  • consider pay-for-parking: muni-meters.
  • improved signage for parking zones
  • clearly designate municipal parking lots
  • handicapped space re-instated on Main St.

Crosswalk enforcement:

  • enforce crosswalks by PD
  • signs to highlight crosswalks

Stop sign at Railroad Ave :

CABA’s Steve Campbell is very concerned about potential accidents. He is  seeing an increase in stop sign violations with southbound traffic on Railroad Ave, and he points out the following:

  • Roll-thru’s are getting more frequent and occur at higher rates of speed.
  • PD re-enforcement would help reduce violations
  • Park empty squad car near intersection
  • Issue tickets for roll-thru’s
  • Call State Police if Chatham is not able to do enforcement.
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Parking in the Village

Creating a “Parking Authority”

As you are well aware, parking has always been an issue in the Village. There never seems to be enough. When special events come to town, it’s nearly impossible to find a place to park your ride.

With parking at a such premium, we need to protect what we have, and develop parking where it makes sense.

Because this is such a large issue, and vital to the commercial health of the Village we are investigating creating a “Parking Authority” which would be a separate entity, yet reporting to the Mayor and Board of Trustees. The Authority would draw up plans, oversee projects, organize funding for any parking project. The existing parking lot in the center of the village, is a joint project between the TOWN of Chatham, and the Village. The Town will have a say in any proposals for parking in this area.

Parking Lot behind Main St:

There has been much positive response to the idea of a municipal parking lot behind Main St for merchants and residents to park. Paul Boehme was involved in this project for years, and got as far as getting bids for construction of the lot. There were several flies in the ointment, and the biggest objection was ‘no overnight parking’. The latest contract from CSX allows overnight parking, which will make this practical for residents living above Main Street.

For this to work financially, the spaces have to be marked and numbered, paid for monthly by tenants. On a related issue, parking enforcement (ticketing) on Main St is crucial to get the ‘all day parkers’ off the street, leaving parking spaces for visitors. This will encourage rental of spaces, making the parking lot financially feasible. The monthly rental has to be reasonable, however, or this won’t work.

The main concern of CSX is that cars sometimes park too close to the tracks, or are backing out of parking spaces when the train is coming, and this causes the engineers to panic, and go into emergency stop. This would be prevented by constructing a barrier, and change the parking to park head-in toward the tracks. Currently, everyone parks toward the buildings, and has to back out of their space into the tracks. My concern is that the longer we delay on this, the more likely CSX will get fed up with our lack of action, and gate the whole area off. This would be a crushing blow to our Village.

Projected costs for the parking lot:

The Lease is yearly, it is $800 per yr. In the latest agreement, CSX stipulates that the lot should be paved within 1 to 2 yrs. Because the agreement states that the Village would be held responsible for any soil contamination at the end of the lease period, our Village attorney suggested that a soil sampling be done BEFORE any agreement is signed.

So now we have before us a ‘soil sampling’ agreement from CSX, specifying the terms and conditions of the sampling. The soil sampling and lab work is estimated at $7600.

The parking lot itself needs to have drainage installed, connecting roof gutters and catch basins into the storm drain system on Main St.  Then the whole lot will have to be paved, barriers in place, striped, within 2 yrs of the signing of the agreement. This was put out to bid by former Mayor Paul Boehme in late 2010, and the low bid was around $100K.

I cannot stress strongly enough that this project should move forward. This is vital to healthy business, perhaps overflow parking for special events on the weekends and evenings.

Other Parking

There is the muni lot to the south of Kinderhook Bank. This needs maintenance. Again, a Parking Authority would be able to create and oversee a maintenance program, and consider possible expansion. Think about the real possibility of the Rail Trail coming to the Village, and the commercial benefits that could bring to the local restaurants and shops. Perhaps the Village could support a hiking/biking/outdoors shop at that point. Parking will be an issue if we don’t look to the future.

At the other end of the Village is the empty lot at the base of Austerlitz Street hill at 295. This could be an overflow parking lot for special events, such as Street Fairs, and Film Festival and ArtsWalk. Should that end of the Village develop, adequate parking is going to be vital.

To wrap it up:

The most important thing is to move forward on the parking lot behind Main Street. Get the contracts with CSX done with, and the soil sampling done, and this will give us some breathing room.

The next thing is determine if a ‘Parking Authority’ is desired.

I’d like to get a sense of your thoughts on this.

Links:

Laberge Group, a municipal consulting firm, that could structure a ‘Parking Authority’ for us.

Information provided by Columbia Land Conservancy‘s Tom Crowell:

N.Y. Times article about “Green Parking Lots

and…

NYS Green infrastructure program:

http://www.nysefc.org/GreenGrants.aspx

http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/58930.html

http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/42053.html

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Take a Poll on the crossing

This poll is for the Option 9, which I wrote about earlier. I think it addresses MOST, not all, of the concerns of the Railroad and CSX.

To appreciate WHY Option 9 is so important, read and view the photo essay about the line of sight issue at this intersection. Please look Option 9 and Option 8 over before you vote.

A comment window opens  AFTER you vote. To read the comments, scroll to the bottom of this post and click on the ‘comments’ link.

Thanks for your opinions. Your voice matters.

This poll is an effort to gather public opinion on the crossing. It’s also my first attempt at a poll, so I’m open to suggestions in subject matter, questions for the poll, and appearance.

Thanks, Tom

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One more Stop

In order to satisfy the railroad’s concern for safety, Option 9 will give the most benefit with the least impact. No construction is involved, which has been an ever-present concern by the business community. Much safer egress from the Railroad Avenue stop position would be realized because the oncoming Hudson Avenue traffic must come to a stop. This same Hudson Avenue stop sign would give motorists coming off Main Street the right-of-way, thus no cars would be stopping on the tracks.

The downside is that a stop sign on Hudson Avenue will slow traffic down, causing backed up traffic during ‘rush hour’.

Blinking mini-lights on the stop signs would grab the attention of motorists without annoying the neighborhood.

As retired Trustee Chapman said, before DOT installs any stop sign, they should do a traffic study.

All approaches to the crossing must have signs saying ‘State Law: No stopping on the tracks’

I will bring this to the April 12 Board meeting so we may consider this Option 9, along with Option 8

Click on the links to print out the images: Option 8Crossing option 9


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Line of Sight

This little photo essay is to illustrate what I perceive to be one of the problems with the intersection of Rte 66 and 295, from a traffic standpoint. (If at any time you want more detail, click on the photo itself, and it will enlarge.)

I’m driving down Railroad Avenue(Rte 295) toward the intersection of Hudson Ave(Rte 66). I note the ‘stop ahead’ sign. The reason behind making the stop sign more noticeable is that many drivers roll right past the stop bar; some drivers don’t even see the stop sign at all.

Here we are, a little closer to the stop line, which is just ahead. My car is already past the crosswalk. At this point, I don’t have a clear view of oncoming Hudson Ave traffic. Also note the fenced off turn in, something we’d like to have cleaned up, make the Village look nicer. All those wickets add a lot of visual noise, making line of sight a little more difficult.

Here I am at the stop line, looking ahead, down Hudson Ave. Looks pretty clear, from what I can see.

Whoa! Where did that white car come from? If you look at the photo above, you can barely see it behind the other cars. This is how it is, cars just appear out of nowhere, going 30 MPH, often faster.

So, I won’t just pull out into traffic, I’ll creep slowly forward to look down Hudson Ave. Ah! Now it’s clear! After I look up Main St., I’ll be able to pull out into traffic.

So I turn my head around 180 degrees, shift in my seat to get a better look, and……the  darn Railroad arm is in the way. I will have to pull even farther out into the intersection so I can look both ways.

By the time I’ve pulled out far enough into the intersection to get a good view, my car is blocking the oncoming traffic, sometimes causing Main St. traffic to stop on the tracks until I can get out of the way.

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Results from March 22, 2012 Public Hearing

The biggest issue is that southbound Railroad Ave motorists do not have a good line of sight from their stop sign. At the stop bar, one can look at Main St and Park Row, but one CANNOT see oncoming Hudson Ave traffic if there are cars parked in front of Video Visions. So the unlucky motorist must creep forward until he/she can see down Hudson Ave, but now this motorist cannot see up Main St because the crossing signal post is blocking their view. To creep farther out for complete line of sight in both directions means this car will now be blocking the intersection, which causes traffic to back up on the tracks.

The Village will pursue conversations with CSX, when appropriate, to determine if gate size and location can work toward safety and line of sight improvements.

My opinion is that increasing the visibility of the Railroad Street stop sign will not significantly improve traffic flow without line-of sight improvements. Signage will not improve turning radius problems for tractor trailers.

In the long run, reconstructing the intersection is the answer. Line of sight, currently lacking, is critical to safety. Some minor relief may be gained by reinforcing the stop sign visibility at Railroad Ave, but this alone will not address all the concerns of the railroad.

Comments welcome here, or email me at: Email: Mayor@villageofchatham.com

Thanks, Tom

Tom Curran, Mayor of Chatham Village

Click on link to download image below: Option 8

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Option Six

In this version, Hudson Avenue traffic is slowed so that pedestrians don’t have to face 30 to 40 mph traffic when they try to cross the road. The crosswalk is brought up to the point of the signal island so that pedestrians are not walking in between stopped vehicles on Railroad Ave. This version may require that DOT reworks the sidewalk and signal island area.

A concern with the ‘no right’ and ‘no left’ turns is that traffic on School Street may increase.

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