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New speed signs coming to Schenectady school zones

New speed signs coming to Schenectady school zones

Devices designed to curb chronic problem
New speed signs coming to Schenectady school zones
An SUV speeds past an existing radar speed limit sign on McClellan Street near Jessie Zoller Elementary School on Thursday.
Photographer: Peter Barber / Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY — Lead-footed motorists rocketing down city streets is a chronic concern for weary city residents.

Now relief may be in sight — for school zones, at least. 

Last month, the City Council allocated $113,000 to purchase 66 new traffic speed control signs as part of next year's adopted budget. Officials are now working to zero in on the exact technology and where the new units will be installed.

“The plan is to deploy them around the school zones first,” said City Council President Ed Kosiur.

Devices may be shifted elsewhere when school is out of session to address other hotspots, he said. 

The Schenectady City School District contains 11 elementary schools, three middle schools and two high school buildings. 

Kosiur acknowledged lawmakers got an earful about speeding from voters during the recently-concluded campaign season.

“We had many, many complaints of speeding on side streets,” he said.

City police put in the budget request after fielding complaints from the city’s neighborhood associations, said city Police Chief Eric Clifford. 

The new devices will not be equipped with license plate readers or cameras that issue automatic tickets and mail them to offenders. 

“Our intentions are more for compliance than enforcement,” Clifford said.

(City police, however, do utilize license plate readers for other law enforcement applications.)

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the new units will contain sensors designed to log traffic volumes and motorist behavior, allowing officials to determine peak speeding times or how many motorists are exceeding the speed limit. 

Patrols can then be dispatched based on that data.

“It allows for more deployed law enforcement resources,” McCarthy said.

Police currently have two mobile speed signs that are temporarily placed on poles located throughout the city. 

“They run by battery, and the battery has to be changed manually every 10 days,” Kosiur said.

Clifford said city police will likely redeploy those devices to neighborhoods with chronic speed problems.

While funding for the new devices was included in the 2020 budget, the units will not be purchased until at least January.

“City police is going to work with neighborhoods and (parent-teacher organizations) on where they’re going to concentrate the signs and issue tickets,” Kosiur said.

While all neighborhoods grapple with speed issues, Kosiur said common hotspots include the freshly-paved Plymouth Avenue — which at about a third of a mile, is among the longest strips in the city uninterrupted by a stop sign — and Van Curler Avenue.

Both are located in the city’s Eastern Avenue neighborhood. 

“That was where we’re having the most complaints,” Kosiur said. 

He also cited reports of motorists drag-racing down Central Parkway, and stretches of Albany Street present ongoing problems.

Kosiur noted the irony of the speeding complaints running in tandem as the city chips away at solving another long-standing complaint: Potholes.

“Nine of ten complaints are on newly-paved streets,” Kosiur said. “Some said, ‘We want our potholes back so people can slow down.’”

Kate Clifford, no relation to Chief Clifford, has long complained about speeding on the stretch of Glenwood Boulevard as it leads to the intersection with The Plaza.

She said she was pleased with deployment of new technology in school zones.

“But it doesn’t solve the problem in Glenwood,” she said, where speeding dominates chatter on social media apps. 

“It’s such a dangerous corner here,” she said. They don’t even stop at Glenwood where they’re supposed to stop - they just pick up speed coming around the corner and don’t know what’s on the other side.”

The Schenectady City School District Board of Education briefly discussed speed-monitoring devices at a meeting last month when members weighed whether to send a resolution of support for speed cameras to the New York State School Boards Association.

While the city of Buffalo will install cameras outside of school zones this fall, some city school board members questioned the efficacy, and whether ticketing would be equitable across neighborhoods.

Schenectady School Board member Katherine Stevens, who said she was speaking as a resident and not in her official capacity, welcomed the new devices in Schenectady. 

“It’s a much better way to reduce speeding than an after-the-fact ticket in the mail,” Stevens said.

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