SCHENECTADY – On multiple fronts, state assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara was in his element on Crane Street and Chrisler and Main avenues Thursday.
Speaking about a community-led initiative to transform the corridor into a safe connector of residents and local points of interest, the Rotterdam Democrat said he was less than two blocks from where he grew up to immigrant parents.
Also, Santabarbara’ s background in civil engineering qualified him to talk about the intersection that a project architect had described as “frightening” to both pedestrians and motorists.
Santabarbara spoke of the intersection’s infrastructure needs, including substandard pedestrian conditions as a result of a wide roadway for people to cross the street, along with high traffic volumes and lackluster road design.
Santabarbara’s appearance wasn’t empty-handed: He and various officials posed with a ceremonial $500,000 check from the state, two-thirds of the money needed for the Crane Street, Chrisler Avenue, and Main Avenue intersection improvement project.
Santabarbara took the legislative lead in securing the state funding for the $750,000 project, with the remaining $250,000 to be paid for by Community Development Block Grant funding from the city.
Upgrades to the Crane-Main intersection project include reducing the amount of excess pavement, increasing greenspace, and building new crosswalks and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. The reduced excess pavement will provide a crossing reprieve for pedestrians and reduce crossing distances. Intersection bump-outs will also reduce pedestrian crossing distances while providing more space in the sidewalk zones.
The extended sidewalk connecting point between Chrisler Avenue and Crane Street will prevent cars from making U-turns between Chrisler and Crane. The plan also proposes to table the intersection with raised material encouraging drivers to reduce speeds and increase alertness.
“We don’t want traffic coming through here at a high speed in there, and that’s the best part of this is – that there’s engineering solutions,” Santabarbara said. “There’s investments that can make all of this possible.”
Although the goal has always been to build a more sustainable and vibrant community, the assemblyman added that these type of infrastructure projects were “needed more than ever, especially during this difficult time recovering from COVID.”
The project will complement the new Schenectady County Public Library Mont Pleasant branch, the newly redeveloped Orchard Park, the new Mont Pleasant Boys & Girls Club, business façade improvements along the Crane Street commercial corridor, and other ongoing and planned improvements along Crane Street and in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood.
“We’ve seen this area of this neighborhood continually be part of a transition where we’ve knocked down the worst of the worst buildings,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said of the undertaking with various city partners.
The Crane-Main intersection upgrade was one of the primary recommendations included in a community-led complete streets initiative to transform the Craig Street and Main Avenue corridor into a safe, inviting, and inspiring connection between residents and community points of interest.
The press event was just outside the new library, to which the Schenectady County Legislature made a significant commitment in the hope the new building would spur additional investment in the neighborhood, County Legislator Richard Patierne said.
“Here we are today, proof positive that our investment paid off,” Patierne said.
Project architect Mary Wallinger Moore said the city’s development and engineering departments were committed to taking a community based approach, working with place Alliance which excels in urban planning and design.
Instead of the car, Wallinger said site plans it prioritized all others who have to move through the space on a daily basis.
In 2019, Schenectady and the Capital District Transportation Committee hosted a series of workshops, curbside conversations, surveys, and community engagement events to provide practical, resident-led design decisions.
Earlier this month, Congressman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, announced funding for another community recommendation from the Craig-Main Connection initiative – the $4.3 million Craig Street complete streets project – which is included in the INVEST in America Act, a national infrastructure bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives that awaits review by the U.S. Senate.
Construction is expected to begin next year.