ITHACA, N.Y. — If you’re a walker, biker or driver on West Hill, take note – the city has plans to make Hector Street a “complete street”, and wants your input.

The open house meeting is scheduled to take place at the Lehman Alternative Community School at 402 Chestnut Street on Monday, May 7th from 4-6 PM.  The open house will showcase the current draft proposals for the Hector Street corridor that were developed based on the City’s grant application. According to a city announcement, Erdman Anthony, the consulting engineering firm for the project, is currently working on an updated plan that will be presented at the public meeting.

The $1.7 million project is mostly funded with state dollars – the New York State Department of Transportation (NYS DOT) awarded $1.4 million towards the construction costs back in June 2017.

The area of intended work focuses on Hector Street/Route 79, from Floral Avenue (Rt 13A) to 500 feet past the City/Town boundary line, with the intent to connect to sidewalks at the Linderman Creek affordable housing and senior housing complexes.

A “complete street” means that a roadway is designed to permit safe access for users of all different modes of transportation, be they by foot, by two wheels, or by four. That means infrastructure that accommodates pedestrians, bikers, bus riders and private vehicles.

Currently, Hector Street is well, not complete, at least by that definition. Driving up from Floral Avenue, there is a sidewalk on the north/east side of the road, which tapers to a “goat trail” by the 600 Block, which fades out further up the hill. For walkers it effectively becomes “use at your own risk”, and perhaps some steeling of the nerves is required if walking next to the guard rails. There isn’t much in the way of bike infrastructure/bike lanes there either. The proposed goals are to extend the current sidewalk along the street, to enhance conditions for bicyclists, and to add 2 bus shelters along the corridor, at the intersection of Hector Street and Warren Place, and the intersection of Hector Street and Taylor Place.

As planned, the proposed sidewalk, to follow the north/east (odd-numbered) side of the street, would be a minimum of 5 feet wide and wherever possible, a 5-foot setback would be provided for snow storage between the sidewalk and the edge of pavement or curb. Where necessary due to the steep grade of Hector Street, or because of right-of-way (ROW)
limitations, a 7-foot wide sidewalk adjacent to the curb would be provided. ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps, including detectable warning devices would be installed at all side street crossing locations. Existing sidewalk in need of repair between the 600 block of Hector Street and Floral Avenue would be replaced.

Bicycle accommodations would include a 5’ on-road bike lane that would be installed between the western project limit past the city/town line and 715 Hector Street, on the odd-numbered side of the street. Additionally, an 8-foot wide sidepath would be constructed between 211 Hector Street and Floral Avenue. So from a driving standpoint, the sidewalks won’t impact you, but the lanes are going to get re-striped and a bit thinner to make way for the bike lane along the odd-numbered side of the street. While this might incite some griping about “the bike lobby”, the project is not sympathetic, as it is the city and state’s intent to make access safe for all users of the road.

The engineer’s report states that the project schedule is to have the designs finalized next month, right-of-way acquisition complete by February 2019, and construction from May-December 2019.

For those unable to attend the meeting on the 7th, written comments can be submitted to Johnathan Licitra, the city’s Sidewalk Program Manager, at jlicitra@cityofithaca.org. Should one feel so inclines, comments can also be hand delivered, or mailed to the Engineering Office in City Hall, 108 East Green Street. Comments will be accepted until May 30, 2018.

Elm and Chestnut Street Realignment

On a related note, though not as far along in the environmental review process, are plans to realign the intersection Elm and Chestnut Streets. This is separate from the Hector Street work a couple blocks away, but those of you who use Elm Street for your commute will want to take note.

This project does not involve a bike lane, but it does involve a reconfiguration of the intersection (removal of the slip lane), the construction of 700 feet of new sidewalk, five new pedestrian crosswalks and signage, and a pair of new TCAT bus stops.

For the project to work, the city needs some land from the Ithaca City School District. The two entities are basically trading land to make this acceptable to both parties – the city gets land here and along South Hill’s South Aurora Street for a sidewalk, while the ICSD gets the portion of Linn Street behind Fall Creek Elementary that is technically discontinued (and has been since 1965), but still owned by the city.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.