A federally funded study of the village’s pedestrian and bicycle transportation plans will focus on the condition of the village’s sidewalks and what can be done about them.
While the core of concrete sidewalks in the central business district is in reasonably good shape, the Ballston Spa Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan study is also looking at the widely varying condition of sidewalks just beyond the business district, where cracks, uneven segments and gaps between sections of sidewalk are all common.
The village recently launched a website dedicated to the study which lets residents identify places where they think sidewalks are missing or need improvement. A virtual public input meeting is being planned for May in addition to other public outreach efforts.
“When you provide a place for people to walk, they walk,” said village Trustee Liz Kormos, one of the study’s leaders.”We want them to be able to walk.”
The $90,000 study, expected to be completed around the end of the year, is being funded by the Capital District Transportation Committee, and could lay the groundwork for the village to pursue federal and state funding to upgrade the sidewalk system, as public policy shifts toward encouraging more people to walk and bicycle rather than drive.
“It’s going to be focused on sidewalks, safety, and on traffic calming, because we have a number of cut-through streets where people are racing through, and we also have trucks,” Kormos said. “Part of our initiative in the next month will be doing a sidewalk assessment in the village. We will actually be looking at every piece of sidewalk in front of every property.”
The goals, village officials said, include promoting economic development and improving safety in a community where traffic on the state highways is heavy as many residents walk to destinations, including downtown businesses, supermarkets on the periphery of the village, and schools. The plan will will not only identify missing links in the pedestrian network and potentially unsafe crossings, but also establish priorities for their repair or replacement, according to the project description.
The village is home to many low-income people, as well as groups like senior citizens, homeless veterans, and disabled adults, many of whom don’t drive. In particular, many of those people walk in the streets due to uncleared or poor sidewalk conditions in winter.
Kormos said some of the sidewalk survey may coordinate with a separate $26,000 urban tree inventory, since in some places sidewalks have buckled due to tree roots undermining them, and repair to those sidewalks would involve addressing the tree’s condition.
Also, there is interest at the regional level in figuring out the best way to get Saratoga County’s Zim Smith recreational trail, which now ends at Oak Street, through or around the village, with the goal of eventually extending it to Saratoga Spa State Park. Kormos said the village would like to be a destination for people passing through on bikes.
“The idea in the whole Capital District trails plan is that we would be, in essence, a historic destination,” Kormos said. “What we want is people walking and biking on the Zim Smith to have a place to go when they get to the end of it.”
The planning study is being conducted for the CDTC and the village by two Capital Region consultants, the engineering firm VHB and Planning4Places.