NISKAYUNA — Jenn Smith can’t blame people for spring fever.
Smith, who has lived on Dean Street in Niskayuna for the past 20 years, knows motorists roll down their windows and turn up their sound systems when warmer weather arrives. Spirits rev higher; so do engines.
But Smith will blame drivers for speeding through her residential neighborhood. She and others have complained to local officials about those who drive too fast on the wide county road that runs from Providence Avenue in Niskayuna to Central Parkway in Schenectady.
The speed limit is 30 miles per hour. Neighbors say some people will hit 50 mph — or higher — as they drive down the long, residential street.
“They speed excessively,” Smith said on a sunny, warm late winter afternoon, as she and others stood on Dean in front of her home, located at the intersection of Webster Drive.
“They pass each other,” Smith said. “If a car is trying to obey the speed limit, another car is going to pass them. And it’s in both directions.”
Smith and other neighbors annoyed with speed kings believe a lot of traffic comes from people cutting down McClellan Street, looking for short cuts to their destinations. “We don’t have proof that is the case,” Smith said. “We don’t sit here and count how many are turning, how many are not. In our opinion, we see a lot of them coming off McClellan.”
The chief concern is safety. Smith said Dean Street homeowners will walk and cycle on their street, which has no sidewalks. Runners are often on the pavement; last week, kids with scooters cruised the street.
“I think the amount of cars coming down this road has increased dramatically,” said Aaron Hull, who lives at 2250 Dean. “I’ve been here since 2009 and it seems like there’s a lot more traffic on this road. My theory is part of the problem is people are trying to avoid congestion, so they’re hitting their GPS (traffic navigation systems) and it brings them to another route.
“I think that’s happening a lot,” Hull added. “People are able to find different routes around the congestion spots.”
Hull also believes part of the problem comes with the straight streets that are part of Old Niskayuna.
“What makes this end of Dean even worse is it goes down a hill and the street is physically wider and no trees,” he said. “So the driver feels he can drive faster, safer.”
Smith said she started to get serious about voicing her concerns about two years ago, and has communicated with town and county officials. Niskayuna police have assigned patrols to the area.
Smith said the police presence has helped; people will slow down when they see marked police cars. But she knows police cannot be a constant presence; patrolmen have other responsibilities.
Crosswalks and speed bumps have been discussed. So have radar-equipped signs that tell drivers how fast they are going. Smith said Dean Street is due for reconstruction in 2022, and that gives her hope that the speed problem will be addressed in those plans.
“But what can we do until then?” she asked.
Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw believes some safety measures will happen.
“The county has said they are going to pursue putting up temporary speed limit signs,” said McGraw, who chairs both the town’s public works and transportation and public facilities committees. “If they can’t get the funds to be able to do that immediately, then the town will do it out of the highway budget.
“It’s not an overwhelming expense, it’s not going to break the bank,” McGraw added. “But we either are going to get them from the county or we’re going to ask the permission from the county. I’ve already eyeballed where I want them to go, a couple 30 mph speed limit signs. They’re solar-paneled, we know how much they cost and we’re taking this very seriously.”
Hull said the most dangerous times on Dean are times when commuters are most active — from 7:30 until 9:30 a.m. and 4 until 6:30 p.m. He said he has seen school buses passed, even when red lights are flashing — which means motorists must stop behind the vehicles. He has seen cement trucks, tour buses and tractor-trailers on the street.
Hull said he considers the street so dangerous, he will no longer walk his dog on the pavement.
Smith has taken precautions. She hopes a large white boulder in her front yard will stop an out-of-control speeding car from crashing into the front of her home and into her bedroom.
Smith also has words for people who use Dean, and use it with disregard for the people who live in homes on the street.
“Be mindful it’s a neighborhood,” she said. “We live here. It’s your way home, but we live here.”
Many neighbors have purchased signs that ask people to watch their speeds. With snow gone for another season, the signs are expected to return with spring.
“What breaks my heart about this, is this is a neighborhood people are attracted to,” McGraw said. “It’s a destination neighborhood in Old Niskayuna because of the walkability, because of their ability to ride bikes.
“I drive down this street because I go to the town pool,” McGraw added. “This gets my attention, when I saw neighbors were paying to put these signs in their yards. I got it.”
McGraw also believes speeding motorists have become a townwide problem.
“We have problems with three spots in town,” she said. “This area, another county road which is Rosendale Road, we get a lot of folks who come and want to talk about Rosendale Road and what we can do to slow things over there. And the Hexam Gardens neighborhood, which is off St. David’s Lane, Consaul Road, kind of the route to Target. That’s an area too, where folks are just begging for relief.”
Another problem, McGraw said, is one of the most traveled roads in the town — Balltown Road. As the town has grown, so has the number of motorists and the amount of traffic.
“Balltown Road is no longer adequately serviceable for the town of Niskayuna into Clifton Park,” she said.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].