A new traffic light for New Paltz?

A traffic light is proposed at the intersection at North Chestnut Street (Route 32 North) and Henry W. Dubois Drive. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials seem poised to make a decision which could kill the Stewart’s plan for the corner of North Chestnut Street and Henry W. Dubois Drive in New Paltz, and that has village trustees railing against the tendency to prioritize automotive traffic despite the passage of the Complete Streets Act in 2011.

When reviewing plans to build a new Stewart’s at this corner, transportation officials determined that what’s really needed is a traffic light. What’s more, they think the estimated $500,000 cost should be paid with a Stewart’s check. Village of New Paltz Planning Board chair Eve Walter agrees that this is a challenging intersection, but believes the problems would exist whether or not a Stewart’s is built; if this light is a requirement, her understanding is that the application will be withdrawn.

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The lot in question is part of the village’s neighborhood-business-residential district, where buildings must be two stories or more, accommodate a mix of commercial and residential uses and be near the road to encourage pedestrian use with street furniture and parking all around the back. It’s one of the few lots in the zone which could accommodate the maximum three-story building, but Stewart’s executives sought a variance because that’s just not the corporate model. A use which is in keeping with zone requirements would still likely generate more traffic than the business now being operated there.

Mayor Tim Rogers is clear that if a traffic light is to be built on a state road, it should be paid for out of state tax dollars. However, he’s in favor of simply redoing the striping at the intersection to better direct traffic. A light is not only more costly, but in his mind reinforces the mindset that all design needs to be built around driving, which doesn’t fit the “complete streets” philosophy very well.

According to information on the state department of transportation web site, a complete street “is a roadway planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of all roadway users of all ages and abilities. This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and motorists; it includes children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.” Local leaders aren’t convinced those in the DOT have adapted to this new law.

Town Supervisor Neil Bettez, who was in attendance for the joint town-village meeting, cited another example of that thinking: the crossing signal at North Front to cross North Chestnut street. The walk signal isn’t “protected” — it doesn’t stop drivers in all directions — and he was told that making that change “would slow traffic down too much.”

Deputy mayor KT Tobin noted that the plan for how to include bicycle and pedestrian traffic in front of Zero Place was “shot down” by DOT officials; she thinks “mixed messages” are coming from state offices.

There are 8 comments

  1. Jonathan

    There’s a severe lack of traffic signals in this town making it such a dangerous place for pedestrians (despite it being a relatively walkable town.) The fact that there are no lights at the intersection of Main and North Front, Main and Water Street, and Plattekill and Hasbrouck is a shame. Whether or not we have traffic lights should not be a debate.

  2. Max Sennet

    How about a traffic cop standing in a traffic booth? Before traffic lights, that was the way to go, and wouldn’t cost half a million dollars neither.

    1. Law

      Elected village officials are permitted by the state to act in an constabulary capacity for the last 100 years and the next 100 also, or until the village is dissolved, whichever comes first. Town officials not so.

  3. Alexander

    We need several new traffic lights around town, it’s too much of a roll of the dice of who’s going to run a stop sign, bolt into traffic, or not be courteous to allow other driver’s into the flow. Same for a need to redesign the exit lanes of Top’s Shopping Center by adding / extending the right turn lane leading up to the light. This would entail cutting into the diner’s berm and making a complete full right turn lane.

    While we’re on the topic of New Paltz needs, if we applied as much oversight to existing properties as we do in torturing new proposals, our town would look a whole lot better. We have outdated, dirty, unkempt properties dotting Main Street the whole length that should be required to paint their buildings non-offensive (meaning no citrus-yellow walls); the chinese restaurant next to the Chase Bank is a mess, exhaust fans and grease stained exterior walls, cardboard over the windows, broken windows…the list is long.

    If we’re going to over-scrutinize new, revenue generating projects that would create jobs and add amenities in this town, then we have to apply the same scrutizining eye on our 1950’s apartment buidings, rental houses that are junk-laden, retail operations that abuse sign laws, and scattered all manner of ‘stuff’ in their front yards, and proeprties that don’t upkeep their exterios — paint, windows, steps, plantings, signage.

    To halt a brand new building because the roof-top airconditioner unit is a foot taller than “permitted” or to fight a project like Zero Place so ruthlessly (thank god it was approved!) all the while letting a wild-west mentality rule older buildings is not only wrong – it’s crazy-stupid.

    We seem to hold two sets of rules – one for the old-hippie ramshackle real estate and a different one for anything new that would benefit our town.

    What gives?
    A strang stew of New Paltz elitism?

    1. Law

      Options:

      1) Re-open Huguenot Street from the river bridge to the golf course for village fire-department volunteers to get to where the fire is.

      B) Re-open Prospect Street from Henry W. to Mulberry Street to open up the road to 32 North.

      III) Exercise “eminent domain” on Henry W and North Chestnut, and direct traffic thru the parking lots of Mc Peady’s and that office building on the north-east corner of Henry W.

      Four) Stop taking Federal and State grants money, and tell the Complete Streets Act to take a hike.

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