|Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer
It was a great album 50 years ago by Nat King Cole, but that's not this summer in Syracuse. Yes, it's been hot and hazy, and the weather has been crazy. But it's been no lazy summer around here. The steam you see coming from under umbrellas this season has been from the new asphalt concrete being poured around the city, and not beach sand. Across the city, our crews are working on pieces of a very large and complex construction mosaic -- the largest complete streetscape project that Syracuse has seen in 90 years. (That's when George Gershwin wrote "Rhapsody in Blue," just to give you a sense of perspective.) This project involves everything you can imagine: utilities, water and sewer mains and drainage, green infrastructure, new streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, signage, landscaping, bike lanes, new lighting, bus amenities -- you name it -- and it's part of the complete streetscape being built this summer. And the only umbrellas you'll see are the construction kind.
We know it's been inconvenient and despite the heat, everyone has kept their cool. We can't thank you enough for that. This issue lays out the work going on right now in the thick of these not lazy, but hazy-crazy days of mid-summer. And, it shares a few thoughts on complete streets and how they are part of a Smart Growth agenda.
Who wants complete streets?
It turns out lots of people do. Some stats from Smart Growth America: 57% of Americans would like to spend less time in cars; 59% say it's important to build public transportation and walking options to make that happen; 54% say they would walk and bike more often if the built environment were improved; and 56% express strong support for adoption of complete street policies. The two groups most supportive are millennials, who are driving less and looking for downtown living options that involve less driving, and baby boomers who are interested in fitness, wellness and healthy lifestyles that include safe pedestrian-oriented environments. The Connective Corridor is a great start, but one "special street project" does not make a complete street agenda. It's part of a larger conversation about land use planning, traffic demand management, environmental and economic policy, and overall community revitalization. You'll also find those topics discussed in a 30-page report submitted to Chancellor Syverud last week by the five-person Chancellor’s Workgroup on I-81, chaired by School of Architecture Dean Michael Speaks. Read more about those discussions here.
"Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to 'complete' the streets," writes Smart Growth America. Cities are asking for streets that are safer, more accessible, and easier for everyone -- young or old, on foot or on bicycle. "In the process, they are creating better communities for people to live, play, work and shop."
The benefits accrue to all. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition:
- Complete streets make economic sense by creating a balanced transportation system that can bolster connections between housing, employment, education and community assets, as well as parks and commercial districts.
- Complete streets improve safety by reducing crashes through safety improvements.
- Complete streets encourage more walking and bicycling, creating more active and healthy lifestyles, and improving overall public health.
- Compete streets can help reduce transportation headaches by offering choices and increasing the overall capacity of the network.
- Complete streets improve air quality by integrating sidewalks, bike lanes and transit amenities, and encouraging choices beyond driving an automobile for short trips.
There is a lot going on right now, as we build complete streets here and take advantage of these dog days of summer to press forward. Here's a handy guide, and be sure to visit the City of Syracuse's traffic detour website, updated weekly: http://www.syrgov.net/roadwork/
Do they really help the economy?
No project is a silver bullet. But there is plenty of research that shows that the easier a community makes it for residents and visitors to take transit, or walk or bike to destinations, there is a bottom line. Research examples include Cleveland where studies indicated that people saved an average of $9,576 annually by switching from driving to taking transit. Bigger cities yield bigger results. Those estimates range from $2.3 billion in Chicago to $19 billion annually in NYC. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, "That 'green dividend' means that residents spend that money in other ways, such as housing, restaurants and entertainment, and that keeps money circulating in the local economy." Other evidence? When a bike lane was added on Valencia Street in San Francisco -- a transitional neighborhood -- businesses saw sales increase by 60 percent. Bloor Street in Toronto reported similar findings. Portland, Oregon estimates a $90 million benefit to the city's economy from its bicycling industry through increased tourism, bicycle sales and repair, bike tours and other activities.
Other research indicates that complete streets spur investment and raise property values, according to a survey conducted by the group of 15 real estate markets across the country. In some areas, a one-point increase in walkability increased home values by $700 to $3,000, and becoming more walkable added $9 per square foot to retail rents. A Delaware study showed that a bike path added $5,000 - $8,800 to property value. Another big indicator: Downtown residential occupancy in the college-educated 25 to 34 year old category increased 26% nationally in walkable communities. That trend is certainly replicating itself here in Syracuse, as well.
In the meantime, how do I get around?
Click on map for a larger image of these week's detours, or link here.
Transportation projects this week affecting downtown
NYSDOT ADVISORY: Double land closure on southboundI-81 south of Downtown Syracuse: The New York State Department of Transportation alerts motorists that the right and center lanes of southbound I-81, beginning one mile north of Exit 17 (State Street - South Salina Street – Brighton Avenue) and ending one-half mile south of the Brighton Avenue bridge, are closed around-the-clock through Thursday, July 31.
City of Syracuse projects
- Erie Boulevard/West Bridge Project: Erie Boulevard/West Bridge over Onondaga Creek (between Plum Street and Franklin Street) has a full closure. Detour eastbound from Erie Boulevard: south to West Street, east on Fayette Street, north on Salina Street, west on Genesee Street south on Clinton Street, west back to Erie Boulevard. Detour westbound from Erie Boulevard: south on Franklin Street, west on Washington Street, north on West Street, ramp to Erie Boulevard.
- Connective Corridor Project, West Fayette Street: West Fayette Street between Onondaga Creek and South Salina Street. Eastbound traffic is maintained throughout. Westbound traffic is detoured at South Salina Street, north to Washington Street, west to Franklin Street, south to Walton Street, back to West Fayette Street.
- Connective Corridor Project, East Genesee Street: East Genesee Street between Almond Street and Townsend Street. Eastbound traffic is maintained throughout. Westbound traffic is detoured at Almond Street south to Harrison Street, west to State Street and north back to East Genesee Street intersection.
- Connective Corridor Project, East Genesee Street: East Genesee Street between Townsend Street and State Street. Eastbound traffic is maintained throughout. Westbound traffic is detoured at Townsend Street, north to Fayette Street, west to State Street and south back to East Genesee Street intersection.
- Connective Corridor Project, Fayette Park: Temporary detour. East Fayette Street eastbound at State Street has a two-way detour (around the Park and State-Washington-Townsend Streets). Westbound traffic is on the inside lane to the park. The Townsend southbound left turn lane has been closed, so Townsend southbound is tapered to a single lane at Washington. Starting next week, there were be more comprehensive State and Townsend lane shifts as the exterior of the park is reconstructed. This is a major project and will probably entail four to six weeks of reconstruction work. At that point, the team is considering a detour that might send eastbound traffic on Fayette Street and westbound traffic on Genesee Street. Watch for updates on this.
- Connective Corridor Project, East Genesee Street: East Genesee Street between Almond and Forman Avenue. Eastbound traffic (south side of Forman Park) has one lane closed, and other eastbound travel lane will remain open.
- Connective Corridor Project: East Fayette Street between Townsend and State Street. Westbound traffic is maintained throughout. Eastbound traffic will be detoured at State Street south to Genesee Street, east to Townsend Street and north back to East Fayette Street intersection.
- West Street Project: Northbound West Street from West Fayette Street to West Onondaga Street. Significant lane reductions on West Street between W. Fayette Street and W. Onondaga Street due to milling and paving in this area. There are also lane reductions Southbound on West Street starting at the West Street ramp off I-680 toward W. Fayette Street, with work also occuring south of W. Fayette Street.
- West Genesee Street: West Genesee Street from W. Fayette Street to State Fair Boulevard has a road closure. Westbound traffic is detoured north on State Fair Boulevard., west on Hiawatha, north on Erie and south on W. Fayette back to Genesee. Eastbound traffic is detoured south on W. Fayette, and north on Geddes back to Genesee Street. West traffic will follow the same detours.
- East Fayette Street, City Water Project: East Fayette Street from Warren Street to Montgomery Street. Westbound traffic maintained. Eastbound traffic is detoured, north on Warren Street, east on Washington Street, south on Montgomery Street back to Fayette Street. Intermittent closures is required for positioning machinery.
Construction activity update
We're almost done in Armory Square. And aren't you ready for that?
We have had the best partners imaginable in the Armory Square Business Association and property owners along West Fayette Street. You are our heroes. You've survived three years of major construction projects, and managed to (mostly) smile through this one. We've met with you every Monday morning through the thick of it, and you gave us great ideas, expressed important concerns, soldiered on, been generous and kind with our crew, and have been great neighbors. We are so glad to be getting out of your space and wrapping up along this stretch of West Fayette Street. The streets have been paved, curbs set and sidewalks poured, new light posts installed, pavers are going in, the crew is working through the punch list, and Armory Square is nearing the finish line. You've been the gold standard for other districts to follow. Thank you! Now, everyone, come downtown to Armory Square and celebrate!
Elsewhere around the city:
- City drainage structures are being installed along West Fayette Street east of South Salina Street as part of a major city water main line replacement project. This is important work. Two major unexpected water main breaks elsewhere in the city today shut down the Civic Center, affected 1,000 people and are part of a pattern of breaks -- averaging one a day across the City -- especially in places where the original wooden pipes are still in the ground. It's not sexy, but this infrastructure work is hot stuff (in a good way).
- Reconstruction work continues around Fayette Park. Much of the interior work is nearing completion and the park is open. You'll see sidewalks, curbing and pavers set in place, base, binder and asphalt work wrapping up. The job will be transitioning over the next week to the exterior sides of the park, and this will be four to six weeks of intensive work, beginning with excavation that gets underway July 21. Work will include underdrains, grading for sidewalks and pavers, grading for parking areas, curb layouts, and getting ready for paving. If weather and schedule holds, the paving crew should be finishing up with paving around mid-August. The new green bike lanes will be installed as part of the exterior work.
- Drainage installation is underway around Forman Park. We'll keep you posted as reconstruction schedules are firmed up later this year.
- The contractor is grading for roadway and sidewalk in all unpaved reconstruction areas, and is paving all current reconstruction areas this week. Electrical subcontractors are continuing subsurface traffic signal work. Sidewalks are being finished at all current reconstruction areas.
This is all hard, hot work ... so give the crew a smile and wave, and be pleasant as we get through these crazy days of summer together!
Get out and enjoy the sunshine!