DELMAR — Town Supervisor David VanLuven won’t be approaching the state Department of Transportation to lower Delaware Avenue’s speed limit — not yet, anyway.
Members of the Bethlehem Town Board deliberated over the benefits of submitting a request to the DOT months before residents are to vote on the Delaware Avenue Complete Streets referendum.
A nearly hour long discussion included a presentation from Robert Leslie, the town’s director of economic development and planning. Within the presentation, Leslie shared that a solitary change of speed limit has been an ineffective way of changing motorist behavior.
Leslie featured four roadways in which the Town had reduced speed limits by as much as 10 mph, only to show that the majority of motorists continued to drive as fast, or nearly as fast. On Feura Bush Road, where the mandated speed was reduced from 40 to 35 mph, Leslie said the Town witnessed no change from the average 42 mph. The Cherry Avenue Extension, which was reduced from 55 to 45 mph at the request of neighboring residents, continues to see motorists driving 52 mph.
Wemple Road’s threshold was reduced from 40 to 35 mph, and motorists responded, but instead of going 45 mph, they proceeded to drive 42 mph — seven miles more than the newly posted limit.
Leslie said the best way to get motorists to slow down is to educate, enforce and engineer.
“I think what that tells us is that education and enforcement efforts, while they are applaudable, the physical changes to the roadway — otherwise known as the engineering changes to the roadway — really is that third ‘e.’ The ‘three e’ approach, studies have shown, you see the best results.”
Much has been discussed over safety concerns regarding the four-lane roadway that runs just more than a mile into Elsmere from the Albany City Line. That same stretch of road has been the subject between two parties arguing over a Complete Streets project that would reduce the lanes from four to two or three traffic lanes, depending upon what design is decided.
The question on whether to reduce Delaware Avenue’s speed limit from 40 mph was not asked as often, which prompted Town Board Member Jim Foster to ask that it be added to the night’s agenda.
Foster proposed reducing the speed limit on Delaware Avenue from the city line to Elsmere Avenue limit last month before resorting to a road diet. He made the suggestion at the board’s June 23 meeting following a similar plea on June 9. VanLuven rebuffed the comment at the June 9 meeting.
The supervisor continues to say reducing speed won’t change driver behavior.
The plan described in the Crieghton Manning report suggests reducing the speed limit, along with additional crosswalks, relocated bus stops, a gateway feature, raised pedestrian refuge islands and potential rectangular rapid flashing beacons.