A $2.2 million grant will help pay for bicycle-related safety improvements along Henry W. Dubois Drive in New Paltz. The State funds are earmarked for creating buffered bicycle and pedestrian lanes along this popular cut-through. This is the route cyclists will be invited to take while following the Empire State Trail through town, and Supervisor Neil Bettez believes it’s the development of the trail which made obtaining this money possible.
“This idea has been in every single plan developed for New Paltz in the past 15 years,” Bettez said. The supervisor regularly sees cyclists and pedestrians using the road even now because it’s the most direct route downtown for many residents, and he expects that putting in a safety barrier will make it all the more welcoming.
What made it possible to finally receive one of these “very complicated grants” was the fact that a lot of preliminary work was done in establishing the Empire State Trail itself. State officials want the money spent in a reasonable amount of time, which Bettez said in this case means about five years, and that was not realistic when this same grant was sought in 2014. “They only give money if you can do it right now,” he said. Since then, State officials have surveyed that stretch, and resolved any right-of-way issues over private property needed for the trail to go through. Those legal wranglings can eat up a significant amount of time.
Town officials sought $2.8 million, and will be borrowing funds to make the 20% match required in the grant terms. That borrowing is already anticipated in this year’s budget. Due to the relative permanence of the project, the payback will be stretched over 20 years.
Other work that’s been done along the street may also have helped bolster the application. Highway superintendent Chris Marx and public works coordinator Bleu Terwilliger have added striping and widened shoulders with extra asphalt, as time and materials allow. For the trail itself, all that’s being provided is shiny, state-standard striping paint. However, local machinery can’t even use that, and when it wears away, the flat white will be used to replace it.
“It was now or never” to receive this funding, Bettez said.
The specifics of the plan have not yet been finalized. The initial proposal calls for a five-foot path for bicycles on both sides, each with a three-foot buffer from motorized traffic, and a sidewalk on the north side of the road. “I prefer a protected route,” said Bettez, rather than a grassy buffer, especially since he expects many children to use it. He looks at the widened shoulder built by county officials along South Putt Corners Road — which has no barrier — and sees that it’s rarely used. Community members will be asked to weigh in before the design is finalized, but one alternative which might fit is a shared path ten-feet wide on one side of the road, with a raised curb and buffer.
Widening the road itself tends to encourage drivers to go faster unless traffic-calming measures like speed bumps are installed; the bumps are effective, but noisy for nearby neighbors and often unpopular. It’s possible cyclists, particularly those heading downtown, will also want to move faster than is prudent on this path; they should stay in the vehicle portion of the road, the supervisor said. Bettez did not speculate as to whether bicyclists would now also be targeted during police enforcement of stop-sign and speed-limit rules on the street.
All the work will be within rights-of-way, but some utility poles may need to be moved to make the plan work. Bettez expects some trees will also be slated for execution, and that once construction begins (perhaps as early as next spring) that the process will be frustrating for anyone using the road during that time. The result, however, he believes will be very well-received in New Paltz.
Lloyd and Kingston will also receive money
Lloyd will get $673,000 in grant money for new pedestrian accessibility enhancements and wayfinding signage for the connection between Highland and the Empire State Trail. And Kingston will get $3.6 million for new pedestrian accessibility enhancements at Flatbush and Foxhall avenues.