Saratoga Springs officials aim to ease the Broadway bottlenecks that test motorists’ patience and endanger pedestrians.
The City Council on Tuesday approved hiring a traffic consultant to study ways to make traffic flow more smoothly through problem Broadway intersections, including the junction with Lake Avenue and Church Street.
Council members unanimously voted to pay Albany firm Greenman-Pedersen Inc. $13,500 to hit the city’s main street in September to study traffic counts, including vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.
The company will study the stretch of Broadway from Congress Street to Ellsworth Jones Place and report back to the city by the end of the year with an analysis and recommended improvements.
The study is needed as traffic on Broadway gets more congested, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said.
“We might be able to find better ways to ensure pedestrian safety and better traffic access,” he said.
Drivers have complained to city officials that they have an especially difficult time crossing heavy traffic to turn left from Broadway onto Lake Avenue and Church Street, Mathiesen said.
Some intersections on Broadway have left-turn arrows making it easier for people to cross traffic, but that one does not.
“It has been something that people have called for,” Mathiesen said. However, “You can’t just casually go through and make that kind of a change without looking at all the other intersections.”
Motorists turning left from Church Street or Lake Avenue onto Broadway do have a left-turn arrow, a signal that confuses pedestrians unfamiliar with the area because it illuminates after the light for traffic going straight turns red.
So they walk out into the street, and sometimes there are vehicles speeding toward the intersection to turn left onto Broadway.
“I don’t know how somebody hasn’t died there yet,” said city Accounts Commissioner John Franck.
Pedestrians who are familiar with that intersection won’t wait for the walk signal when there are no cars turning left on the arrow; the coast is clear, so they venture out, Mathiesen said.
“Frankly, a lot of people walk across the street against the pedestrian light,” Mathiesen said. “We want this to be intuitive and logical.”
The Broadway, Lake and Church intersection is perhaps the busiest downtown intersection and is one of the few where traffic can go straight across Broadway.
Other downtown intersections are staggered and come to a T at Broadway, making them less complicated.
“If you fix that corner, there will be a statue of you in the city,” Franck joked to Mathiesen at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
But other Broadway intersections do have issues.
Pedestrians and motorists also compete to cross the intersections with Division Street and Congress Street, with drivers at times losing their chance to go because there are a lot of pedestrians.
“The cars get backed up because they’re waiting for the pedestrians,” Mathiesen said.
Also on Tuesday, the City Council approved creating workforce housing at two properties the city retained from a tax sale: 26 Cherry St. and 195 Division St.
The city plans to contract with Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together Saratoga County; a contract is expected to come up for a vote at the council’s next meeting.
First-time homebuyers who have a reliable income and earn less than 60 percent of the median household income would be eligible to buy the houses, officials said.