Hamburg Street’s scattered sidewalks aren’t likely to attract pedestrian traffic to the commercial corridor.
The few that exist remain islands in a sea of roadway that makes up the bustling thoroughfare. Some are badly cracked, while others are nearly at the level of the street, leaving no buffer between the walkway and the shoulder of the road.
But with federal funding on the horizon, this could change markedly. Town officials are planning a project that would build a 5-foot wide sidewalk on the east side of Hamburg Street next year.
The new sidewalk will extend 900 feet from the Bridge Christian Church near the intersection at Arlene Street to the Rotterdam Senior Center on Campbell Road. The $90,000 project relies on a $9,000 match from the town, which will also be required to fund preliminary and final design services, with the remainder covered by federal funding.
Despite its limited scope, the project has brought renewed hope to business owners along Hamburg Street, some of whom have grown restless over the lack of improvements over the past five years.
Skip Renaud, chairman of the Hamburg Street Merchants Association, was thrilled.
“It’s absolutely great news,” he said Wednesday. “Hopefully, it’s the beginning for much-needed improvements along Hamburg Street.”
The town initially applied for funding through the Capital District Transportation Committee’s Bicycle and Spot Pedestrian Improvement Program in 2008. The project was subsequently placed in the committee’s five-year Transportation Improvement Program, which directs federal funding to local projects.
Preliminary design work is expected to begin in May. Under the terms of the grant, the project must be completed no later than September 2014.
The improvement is the first to reach the Hamburg Street area since the state Department of Transportation completed a major roundabout project at the Curry Road intersection in 2009. Business owners along the corridor have long called for changes that would help transform the area from bleak urban sprawl into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown region for Rotterdam.
Revitalizing Hamburg Street as a commercial corridor was the focus of a 2007 transportation linkage study launched by the committee and the town.
The study concluded the town could tweak zoning regulations to spark development that would redevelop the road into a bustling mixed-use corridor, complete with street-front shops, sidewalks and landscaping.
This vision was integral to getting a $5.7 million reconstruction project on the committee’s five-year priority list in 2010. Among other things, the project would reconstruct a half-mile stretch of Hamburg Street extending from Stoodley Place to Fourth Street, sculpting a tree-lined retail corridor with on-street parking, nearly two miles of sidewalks and bicycle lanes.
Design work and engineering for the larger project was originally slated for last year, with the construction phase to begin in 2014.
The state Department of Transportation has since pushed back $250,000 the agency had allotted for this work until beyond next fall.
Hamburg Street serves as a main traffic route for the thousands of residents living in Rotterdam’s Carman and Coldbrook neighborhoods. Local planners believe the corridor will blossom as a retail destination for these neighborhoods, provided traffic-calming and aesthetic improvements are made.
“We certainly have unlimited potential on Hamburg Street,” Renaud said.