SCHENECTADY — The patterns of aquamarine green painted on the street outside Schenectady City Hall may or may not be here to stay.
The pavement markings created last week on the four corners of Jay and Liberty streets, along with temporary plastic bollards to stop vehicles, are part of an experiment by government officials and a non-profit organization to determine if the intersection can be made safer for people crossing the street.
The goal is to get drivers to see the street as narrower and slow down, but the unusual markings are turning heads.
“It’s extremely visible, and people are talking about pedestrian safety, which is great,” said City Engineer Chris Wallin.
If people like them, or can at least live with them, the painted markings could remain, or they could potentially be replaced with permanent raised crosswalk extensions.
“It’s only temporary to give the city and the public a chance to see what it’s like,” said Michael Franchini, executive director of the Capital District Transportation Committee. “They do it temporarily to see what response they get.”
The CDTC, which manages federal transportation funding in the region, has awarded roughly $1,300 in grant funding to pay for the temporary markings as part of a larger project that includes intersections in Watervliet, Albany and Troy. There was no out-of-pocket cost for the city.
“At the Greenmarket I talked to about 80 people, and I would say 75 people had very positive reactions to the installation,” said Will Malcolm, food access manager and project coordinator with Capital Roots, the Troy non-profit sponsoring the project. “I had two people who said they have apartments on Jay Street and could tell people are slowing down.”
The intersection in front of City Hall, where Jay Streets runs one-way, is frequently used by pedestrians going to the adjoining Jay Street Pedestrian Mall, City Hall, Proctors or local businesses. It was picked for the experiment because of what Capital Roots said is a high rate of conflict between drivers and pedestrians.
“A lot of people of varying ability trying to get to the post office, in particular, and Liberty Street at that point is very wide,” Malcolm said.
Wallin noted that that intersection was tabbed under the state’s Pedestrian Safety Access Plan for crossing signals and potentially other improvements to make it safer. City officials recommended it to Capital Roots as one where the painted markings were worth trying.
“The intersection met a lot of the criteria for this kind of project,” Wallin said. “It is visible, it’s on a street with traffic, but isn’t a main connector. It’s one-way, and one of the most common issues is we have is people driving the wrong way down a one-way street, and that will be less common if it’s not seen as so wide.”
The bollards are screwed into the pavement, but will be removed before winter because they could interfere with snowplowing. “Once the plows get attached to the trucks, those are going to be removed,” Wallin said. “We want to see how the paint holds up, we’ll look to possibly reinstate it in the spring.”
Over the winter, Capital Roots, CDTC and city officials will determine whether the markings were effective. They might be made permanent, or the city could look at the more-expensive step of constructing raised sidewalks that extend out into the street.
The designs in the paint were created by local artist Zach Harrington, a member of the Schenectady Art Society.
The color is meant to be distinctive, and it is considered a calming color, Malcolm explained. “That’s the purpose,” he said. “We used a highway-grade paint, and it’s designed to hold up under tough conditions. We expect it to last about a year. We’ve made it clear to the city that if it needs to be repainted, we will do that.”
For Capital Roots, its first Schenectady streets project is part of an effort called Healthy Streets to go beyond its roots as a healthy foods organization.
In October, Capital Roots will be installing what it calls artistic/enhanced crosswalks similar to those at Schenectady City Hall at Hamilton Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Club on Webster Street. A similar project also will be unveiled Thursday on 2nd Avenue in Watervliet.